Using robotics for hands-on learning

Using robotics for hands-on learning
Posted on 01/17/2017
For a handful of students at Bernice Vossbeck Elementary School, learning about the power of robots proves “unlike anything they have ever done before,” says Jodi Oliver, BVE para-educator.

As part of the schools highly capable learning program that allows four fourth and fifth grade students to meet together three days a week for 30 minutes each session because they have advanced beyond classmates in math, Oliver walks them through a robotics course that offers something a little different than a typical classroom experience.

Using a robotics kit shared throughout the district, the students start out learning about the real-world functions of robots, such as in factories. “That gives them a little taste of the need for robotics,” Oliver says. Students study everything from how cars get manufactured with the use of robots to what the future of robots could look like. Then they get hands-on building a robot.

Using the Lego Mindstorms EV3 system students build the robot and learn about each component along the way, from how sensors work to how to program every aspect. “It is not like anything they do in the classroom at all,” Oliver says. “They enjoy it. They get to be the boss of their own little robot and we all learn about each specific part as it goes together and then they get some time and freewill (to experiment).”

The three-month course also provides a different educational taste for students accustomed to finding success immediately. “For these kids, they are used to always getting the answer really quickly and understanding right away so for them the failing—not that they enjoyed it—but I think the failing was eye-opening for them,” Oliver says. “They would build the robot really quick and program it and then push go and for the robot to sit there and look at them, they really had to slow down and think about each step. Once they got that and the attention to details, one of the kids had the robot attached to a pen and programmed so it was drawing things on poster board.”

Oliver says it was fun to watch each of the students interact with the robot in their own way. “They all have such varying interests,” Oliver says, “in things that make them go ‘wow.’” And during the robot experience, the students enjoyed many wow moments.