Leadership magazine March/April 2017 V46 No. 4 - Page 35

for future employment . The robotics program eventually expanded into elementary sites ; launching VEX IQ at 14 schools . In the process , thousands of K-12 students eagerly participated in the annual international Hour of Code which elevates programming skills and opens the door to a high-demand career field . It was not uncommon for students and staff to articulate with their feeder teams on designing , coding , and strategizing . Students mentoring students built learning capacity beyond measure at HUSD .
One mutual benefit Robotics K-12 brought to the community was a streamlined pathway for students to attain essential education , skills , and employment necessary to achieve economic self-sufficiency . HUSD was deeply committed to cultivating partnerships between employees , schools , and community colleges to better prepare students for the workplace and improve student transition to post-secondary education . “ My company has been an ardent supporter of schools in the High Desert that embraces technology-based curriculum and is putting into practice courses and environments to provide a hands-on approach to learning ,” stated Eric Schmidt , President of Exquadrum , Inc . “ As an aerospace engineer , I fully understand the value education provides when coupled with an approach that emphasizes learning by doing methodology verses one based on board work and book work .”
He added , “ Working on leading edge technologies for defense of our Nation , we are pleased to support the schools by providing guest speakers , offering job shadowing opportunities , access to training and supplies , and the potential for an internship .”
The Chamber of Commerce was also pivotal in their support of HUSD robotics via volunteerism , promotions , and donations . In robotics , the community truly matters .
The introduction of Lego robotics at the primary level began with understanding the building blocks of engineering . “ We didn ’ t realize how much the world is connected by robotics and engineering ,” observed one elementary student . “ Robotics has been the single greatest impact on moving our school toward 21st Century skills and increase in the 4Cs ,” an elementary Principal stated . Upper grades infused VEX IQ robotics to familiarize students with scientific engineering principles and simple machines ; eventually , writing code to program robots to work autonomously . “ I was nervous to do it at first but found I was really good at it ,” exclaimed an elementary student .
Winters recommends the first step to starting a site robotics program is to assemble a solid team of adults with diverse skills . “ One person cannot run the program ,” he stated . An initial budget of approximately $ 10,000 will support purchases for robots , software , playing field , equipment , tools , and parts . Entry fees will be an additional cost to consider as well as professional development opportunities . Online training courses from various institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University proved to be beneficial for newcomers . Networking with other coaches is critical to successfully implementing a robotics program .
Once up and running , the benefit of robotics extends far beyond the classroom . One boy shared , “ I like robotics because it helps me improve my building skillsfrom building a simple robot to helping my Grandpa build a birdhouse .” An elementary parent noted a change in her child after her participation in STEM activities . “ My daughter wants to come to school now ,” she said . At HUSD , Robotics K-12 is a game changer for innovative instruction and authentic application of knowledge .
“ Robotics is a technology tool for learning , not just for students but for teachers and staff . It opens doors to unlimited possibilities ,” stated McCollum . “ It is a pure example of 21st Century learning .”
“ Robotics made a difference by getting me into the habit of thinking deeply about questions in order to get a better understanding of what it is asking me to do ,” said one student about the program .
“ Many students are motivated at a higher level to do well in school because robotics serves as a ’ hook ’ to keep them involved in school , said the SHS Principal . “ Students collaborate and communicate with one another to build and operate their robot . Their creativity and critical thinking were observable throughout the process .”
Healthy competition created an additional motivation observed in students who didn ’ t feel that way until they were involved in robotics . Students spent free time working on their robots to enhance and perfect their skills . A secondary administrator said , “ Many students are learning a stronger work ethic because of the many hours they put in on their personal time .” Students understood firsthand , in robotics team commitment and dedication are paramount .
Robotics parts and software often aided projects in other classes ; for example , a robotic rocket launch platform was used for a Trigonometry unit in Geometry . “ Through robotics , students developed a mindset and skillset for things not yet invented which will enable them to easily adapt to the unknown future of the 21st Century ,” McCollum stated .
The advantages of engaging students in Robotics K-12 typically results in their learning more than building a robot . They become keenly aware of the unwritten curriculum of soft skills , code of ethics , and life skills . “ It ’ s not really about robotics , it ’ s about the process ,” HUSD Board President Eric Swanson said . “ Through robotics students understand the importance of the 4Cs and how it all works together . Students learn a skill set for life .” He openly invites districts to observe robotics in action by visiting HUSD sites .
Students are purposely moving forward on STEM career pathways and pursuing college as a direct result of HUSD ’ s Robotics K-12 . “ STEM jobs are the jobs of the future ,” concluded the authors of STEM : Good Jobs Now and for the Future ( ESA July 2011 ). Robotics is the premier ticket to the world of innovation and technology ; the E-ticket to unlimited possibilities . Students agreed , “ I never thought I would like to do this- now I want to go to college ,” “ The mechanical skills I learned will help me in the military ,” and “ Without robotics classes , I would not have entered the engineering pathway in college .”
Cindy Costa is the Grant Writer , Outreach and Site Support , Education Services of Hesperia Unified School District . HUSD , a rural district , serves 22,000 PreK-12 students at 25 sites in San Bernardino County .
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