These days it may not be uncommon to see a robot in your child’s classroom, as a number of local schools are integrating robotics and programming principles into education in a variety of subject areas across all ages.
Recently, thanks to grants from the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation announced last week, teachers at O’Gorman High School, Adventure Elementary School in Harrisburg, and John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Sioux Falls are using robots in the classroom.
Daniel Martin, a technology integration specialist at Adventure Elementary School, has received a $1,200 grant from SFACF to purchase several Sphero Indi robots for use in any classroom at the school.
Indis look like little robot cars, and are designed to integrate problem solving and computational thinking into literacy, language development and mathematics for early learners.
On Thursday mornings, the first graders worked on the floor laying out different colored tiles forming different puzzles or obstacle courses to get the cars to go the way they wanted.
Each colored tile corresponds to a different action: green to go faster, yellow to slow down, red to stop, pink to go left, blue to turn right, orange to turn left, teal to veer right, and purple to do some dancing and celebrate.
The students laughed and smiled as they completed each obstacle course assigned to them, and lunged at Martin each time they correctly set up their course to get an Indy car to complete a task.
Vayda Peterreins, 7, said she loved it being “a great challenge,” and that she would partner with other students to work together on assignments. Sawyer Amulins, 6, said he loves playing with robots to help him learn how to code.
While it looked fun, there’s more beyond the surface, as the technology actually introduces young students to the basics of coding and computer science. “It’s great to see him, and (the students) having so much fun,” Martin said. “Sometimes, they don’t even realize how much they’re learning, because it’s just playing.”
Learning this way, she said, can help Martin’s students practice storytelling, pattern recognition, computational reasoning, abstract reasoning, analogy, and spatial relationships and shapes. I’ve used bots in math lessons too, changing tiles to match different numbers and asking students to create a pattern equal to a certain number.
Martin also started a coding club several weeks ago with her new bots, as part of the larger community computer science push.
Students in Rebecca Hirschman’s classes at JFK in Sioux Falls learn in a similar way to Martin’s students in Harrisburg Thanks to another SFACF grant, Hirschman has acquired a pair of robots, Dot and Dash, designed to teach students how to code.
Dot and Dash are able to interact with their surroundings by detecting sounds, objects, and motion, the foundation said in a press release.
“Dash can dance, sing, and respond to voice commands. According to the release, Dot has similar but consistent abilities.” “With the help of apps, kids can learn to program these robots to learn and play games, send messages, solve puzzles and even complete obstacle courses.”
High school students also engage in coding and computer science in a new way in O’Gorman’s Darwin Daugaard classes. The foundation also recently awarded a $1,396 grant to Daugaard to purchase 24 Spheros robotic spheres for use in physics and engineering lessons.
Daugaard’s project, “I Think I Lost My Marble,” helps students learn about velocity, friction, and acceleration while developing skills in notation, graphing, and measurement.
Students operate the robots on their iPhone, iPad, Android, or other mobile phone or tablet through an app, and can control them in the app by using their thumb or finger as a kind of joystick to move the robots, or tilting their phone to get them to move. Different coverings of the balls can also change their friction, Dugard said.
Learning with the robotic balls, Dugard said, will help students with an end-of-year project that they’ll complete to show their knowledge of four or five laws of physics.
“A bunch of (students) want one for Christmas,” he said. They were pumped to work with them. If this can get them to stay in physics, I will.”
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