The month of March brought the collaboration of Lake Shore and Violet elementary students in an effort to increase interest and participation in robotics and computer science among the youth.
Violet students, Sarah Milligan and Maddison Zielinkski partnered with Advanced Web Design students, Dustin Dembeck, senior, and Kleant Topalli, sophomore, to program a robot through various quests and challenges. The bot in question, Dot, is a means to give students in the K-12 system a taste of robotics in an elementary and engaging manner. The bot is designed so that no actual programming is done by the students themselves, rather by way of an app in manner similar to that of MIT’s Scratch which utilizes drag and drop mechanics. Doing so ensures any student – regardless of skill level – is able to take part in the robots ‘programming.’
Using the Wonder app, students problem solved and gave different approaches to the tasks presented. Among the those came the map challenge, which had students program the bot to travel to various locations with the added difficulty of having to perform a specified action once at the destination.
Perhaps the most valuable thing to come of the day was the opportunity the challenges gave students to troubleshoot bugs in the blockcode. As Topalli put it, “The robot went wacky or rouge, and would just do what it would want, he did a little dance which Dash/Dot wasn’t programmed to do.”
Beyond allowing students to experiment with the tech, the day served to prepare Milligan and Zielinkski for their competition, which much like the activity, has students manipulate code blocks to create programs. As described by technology teacher Tasha Candela, “Teams will have to solve three Michigan inspired quests. Using Wonder programming, students solve problems and try different approaches if something doesn’t seem to be working.” Serving as further incentive, students compete for a chance to win $50 amazon gift cards in their first competition, and up to $1,000 at the state level.
Moving forward from the day, students came out having had the opportunity to experiment and learn from the tech.. Of which the importance cannot be understated, as noted by Candela,“We live in a world surrounded by technology, but only a fraction of us learn computer science, the basics of how computers work, or how to create software, apps, or websites. I’ve learned that, by choosing to give students the opportunity to learn code, they are exposed to a field that has a growing job outlook and an enjoyable learning environment.” Concluding that, “I am in the best profession because of my students. They do anything I ask and more.”