Robotics Club

It’s 6:30 am and a group of teens huddle around a box. Inside the box are small pieces of plastic. The teens are making small talk and laughing with each other. An outside observer might consider making a quick 911 call. What are these junior high students doing this early in the morning? Typically we can get out teens out of bed before 10:00 am!

These students have gotten up early to come to school to meet with the Spring Hill Robotics Club that was started at their school this year. Students are using Lego’s Mindstorms kit to design, build and program a robot to complete simulated Mars rover missions. Currently, students are working in teams to see who can build the most effective rover which can collect “Mars” rock samples by dragging rocks back to the home base.

These students, which are from special education, general education, and accelerated education programs, are using science and math skills to complete the mission.

One might ask how this all got started. Back in late May of 2012 the robotics club advisor, Robert Lane, and his wife were at a mall in Cleveland, OH. They decided to walk into the Lego store. On the shelf was a Lego Mindstorms kit. This sparked the curiosity on how this could be incorporated into the classroom. After some investigation, and with the help of Lego Education Consultant Ivery Toussant, that curiosity became an idea.

The principal, Mrs. Warner and assistant principal, Mrs. Meadows, gave their blessing to start a club before or after school. The curriculum director, Ms. Phillips, agreed to have the school district purchase one Mindstorms kit to get the club started.

Over the summer Mr. Toussant sent an invitation to a NASA Robotics workshop out to his clients including Mr. Lane. Jumping at the chance to learn as much as possible about integrating the Lego Mindstorms kit into the classroom, Mr. Lane jumped at the opportunity.

During this workshop, which was facilitated by Paragon, a series of six missions were introduced to integrate Lego robotics while simulating actual Mars missions. Missions include clearing the landing field of debris, calculating the amount of light shining on the landing field, collecting Mars rock,

The workshop was extremely valuable to the planning of the robotics club. The knowledge gained prepared Mr. Lane with lessons and ideas on organizing the club meetings. The club has done as well as it had largely due to the experience Mr. Lane had at the robotics workshop.

After a month, the average number of students in attendance each week was 8 students, so the school district agreed to purchase one more kit to allow students to work in teams of 4-5 and compete with each other to see who couple build the most effective robot to complete the missions.

Towards the close of the first semester, the club is typically running at 10 students with at least one new member each month.

Three key objectives that were met during this mission were:
• Students successfully worked in teams to design, build and program the robot.
• Students used the scientific method to hypothesize and test the groups ideas.
• Students used geometry skills to decide how much of a revolution to make the arm swing.

Additionally, students learned how to program some additional behaviors to the robot including playing sounds and turning on small lights attached to the robot.