Saturday, November 23, 2013

This Saturday in Robot Science

Photo by Evan Brandt
Robots built by Pottstown High School students approach 
members of the Pottstown School Board.
Let's face it, robots are taking over everything.

They vacuum our homes, they build our cars and now, they're taking over our schools.

Robotics competition have become a favorite way in recent years to teach science to students and Pottstown is getting in on the trend.

Pottstown Middle School Principal Gail Cooper told the school board Thursday night that a program is getting started in her school and "we hope to go to robotics competition next year."

Her counterpart at the high school, Jeffrey Hartmann, one-upped her by showing up with a team that not only had functioning robots already, but is going to competition next month!

Hartmann said he hopes to instill in students at his school the "Seven Survival Skills" outlined by Tony Wagner, the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard University.
Tony Wagner
  1. Critical thinking and problem solving;
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence;
  3. Agility and adaptability;
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurship;
  5. Effective oral and written communication;
  6. Curiosity and imagination;
  7. Accessing and analyzing information;
"Through robotics, these students are learning and applying these seven skills," said Hartmann.

The first demonstration of this was through freshman Heather Swanson, who presented to the school board the journal the robotics students are required to keep which demonstrated, among other things, the way the students are working collaboratively, analyzing information and using their imagination.

Here is a portion of her presentation about the creation of one of the robots -- named Miley (we presume it is not programmed to "twerk"):

Hartmann told the board the team will shortly visit Blommsburg High School which is a "comprehensive," like Pottstown High School, meaning it includes its career and vocational program in-house.

That school already has a robotics team which is doing well in competition and has a career and technical education program integrated and co-taught with its match and science staff, "which is taking it to a whole new level," said Hartmann.

It is a model he intends to replicate at Pottstown.

Currently, that work is being undertaken by math teacher Robert Decker and science teacher Laura Wise, who told the board she "took on robotics this year, knowing nothing about it."

"These kids are totally dedicated to it. It's all after-school. We meet Mondays and Wednesdays and, at the request of the kids, we've thrown in a third day a week because we're getting closer to our competition, so we're trying to get more prepared for it," wise said.

"They're really implementing a thorough thought process, for example, watching them work on an arm model, realizing its not going to work, and then going back to square one in building the arm, and it's a really neat process to watch, how their brains work," said Wise.

Decker told the board that he is looking forward to the competition, where the students will get their first sense of the sophistication of the robots being built and be exposed to countless new ideas for how to make them work.

Very soon, he predicted, "these students are really going to knock your socks off."

Hopefully, that will occur before someone invests a robots to take our socks off.

1 comment:

  1. So proud of these students and this program. My son loves being a part of this program and is very proud of his accomplishments as are we. I look forward to supporting them in the upcoming competition at Blue Bell! Go Trojan's!!