In Washington Township, Indiana, students are learning engineering fundamentals at the Battle of the Bots. In Todd Hutson’s class, students are building VEX robots who will compete against each other and ultimately against other schools that use VEX Robotics products. The battle culimnates with the VEX Robotics World Championship each April.
There are three middle and high schools within the East Porter County School Corp. in Porter County. There are also three elementary schools in the corporation. According to Brandie Muha, director of curriculum and instruction for East Porter County Schools, the introduction to engineering course offered by Hutson is the first through the school corporation.
“We do offer a couple of courses under the career and technical education engineering/technology umbrella at Kouts High School,” she said. “We offer introduction to manufacturing and introduction to design (which will shift to introduction to engineering next year). We have offered these courses for several years at Kouts.
“Our overall goal in offering these courses is to look at the career and college pathways from the Indiana Department of Education and to see how we can align our course offerings with opportunities provided to our students,” Muha said. “Ultimately, we want to ensure that our students who have an interest in a college (or) career path of engineering and/or technology are being provided courses that lead them to success after high school.”
Hutson says that the approach he takes with building robots and involving students in competitions keeps students away from what he calls the focus on “pen and paper.”
“I enjoy teaching the hands-on activities,” Hutson said. “Even in my physics classes, we do lots of hands-on activities. I want them to understand how to work together as a team, and how to program and design robots.”