Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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July 21, 2007

Teachers learn advanced robotics

Program aims at gaining support for robotics curriculum

Robotics isn’t just for high school any more.

Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana’s Kokomo campus hosted nine teachers for a free robotics workshop this week, and at least two of those teachers were from elementary schools.

On hand were Liz Souter, librarian from Western Intermediate School, and John Indrutz, sixth-grade teacher from Galveston Elementary School.

Souter became interested in robotics after her daughter joined Western High School’s Panther Tech robotics team and now serves as a team mentor. The team sponsor, Joe Reel, encouraged her to attend the workshop and learn more.

This week, she, Indrutz and his son, Alex Indrutz, an industry and technology major at Ball State University, worked as a team, building their VEX robot and programming it to maneuver through a masking tape course marked out on the floor of Ivy Tech’s Alumni Hall.

At the end of the program, each teacher took home a VEX robot kit, Auto Desk Inventor software, curriculum guides and other materials, all valued at more than $5,500, according to Dan Ward, Ivy Tech’s design technology program chairman.

Ward said this is the third year for the free robotics workshop, which is funded with a grant from Indiana Workforce Development.

Ward wrote the grant that funds the program, which he is taking to 12 Ivy Tech campuses statewide.

As part of the program, Alex Indrutz sets the robot at the beginning of the course, and they wait for it to move. It starts forward and makes the first turn, just barely going outside the marked lines.

“Hey, that’s not bad at all,” John Indrutz said, and they go back to their desktop computer to tweak the program.

John Indrutz plans to incorporate robotics into his science and math classes, because they use fractions, ratios and proportions, among other required skills. He thinks the sixth-graders will enjoy the hands-on experience with computer programming, which he thinks they are capable of learning.

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