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.
“If I can do it, I know the sixth-graders can do it.”
Souter plans to use her robot in the media center to expose students to hands-on applications for the technology they are learning in their classrooms. She hopes it will build interest for the Panther Tech program at the high school, and there might be interest in having a robotics team for younger students.
There are VEX robot competitions in Indiana, and Souter said entry fees are charged in school supplies.
The next to try their robot on the course was Brandon Mink, an Eastern High School teacher.
Mink teaches digital electronics as well as Project Lead the Way engineering courses at Eastern, and he said robotics can fit into both of those programs.
He said the robot is a real-life example of how electronics can be used in a practical way, and it gives students a chance to see how it works.
It will also be a fun way to get students interested in electronics and will give them hands-on experience in programming and problem-solving, he said.
“If you smash a robot into the wall, you’re highly motivated to figure out what went wrong,” he said.
Ward said all the teachers involved will write lesson plans incorporating the robots into their classrooms and will post those online for other teachers to access and use. All of them are eligible to compete in a VEX robot competition in October as well.
He hopes by providing the workshop, materials and robots for free, it will support advanced teaching and learning through a robots curriculum and prepares students for careers in technology and engineering.
As a mentor with high school robotics teams with For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, Ward hopes maybe some teachers who attend will return to their schools with interest in starting their own FIRST teams
“It’s a good way to train them early to compete in FIRST.”
Program aims at gaining support for robotics curriculum
Robotics isn’t just for high school any more.
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