We recently began a new Robotics Club after school program for our upper elementary and middle school students! Mr. Chris Nelson, the club leader and our director of technology, shared about the successful launch of this exciting new initiative. “It is amazing! Our plan was to provide enough robots for up to 24 students. So far, 48 students have joined the club!” We asked how the program has gained momentum so quickly. He shared that the robotics leaders hosted a showcase night a few weeks ago where students could try out three areas of the robotics experience. Students drove fully-functional robots through various challenges on a competition table. Students could also see an example of how to program the robots to achieve the desired results in a competition setting. Robotics kits were also available so that students could become familiar with how the robots are built. Parents then signed up their students for the program if they were interested in moving forward. “We were really excited to see so much interest,” said Mr. Nelson.
At the first official meeting last week, students began learning how to build a robot using a competition-ready kit from Vex Robotics. “We started by giving students the opportunity to work together in small groups to build a robot using an instruction manual similar to what you would find in a Lego kit,” Mr. Nelson explained. Since the building process takes a few sessions to complete, the group leaders are using the time to form functional teams. in the second week, teams continued to build the robots they started the first week and additional groups were created as new students joined. Since some students will gravitate more toward driving or programming, Mr. Nelson and his team are identifying those students who really enjoy the building process. Each team will need to have people to program, build, and drive, especially if those teams desire to compete in robotics competitions.
Mr. Tom Durbin, LCS Head of School explained the two tracks that robotics club members can choose. “The first track is designed for students who are just exploring robotics. Those students will come to our weekly meetings and enjoy learning and experiencing the process of building, programming, and driving robots. For students who want to get more involved, there is a competition track,” said Mr. Durbin. “Students who want to compete will work with a coach and likely have additional practice time outside of the larger weekly club meeting. They will design, build, and program their own custom-designed robot within the specifications allowed by the robotics competition. They will then enter and compete against other schools in area robotics events which could lead to higher levels of competition at state, national, and even international levels.”
This robotics program provides such a fantastic opportunity for our students. It creates opportunities to learn about teamwork, responsibility, accountability, design strategy, problem solving, the importance of communication, relationship-building, and certainly provides growth opportunities in science, engineering, and math. Mr. Nelson said, “I’m a sports guy, and I’ve been surprised to see robotics provide more powerful team-building opportunities than sports! It’s unbelievable to see how these kids work together, communicate, and grow.”
This club robotics initiative was funded by our spring Jog-A-Thon. The club is an addition to our existing in-school robotics program which was funded by our 2018 Dinner & Auction event. Our Director of Advancement, Mekeisha Black, commented on the impact of the gifts given toward the robotics programs. “I’m so grateful for the donors who provided the funding so we can offer these programs. Their generosity is allowing our students to begin this exciting journey of exploration in the world of science, technology, engineering, and math. To see such an overwhelming response from our students is a beautiful affirmation of the timeliness of those gifts. On behalf of all our students, ‘Thank you!’”
We will continue to follow the progress of our club over the next few months. We look forward to celebrating the adventures this new program brings to our students and to LCS!