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Sharing skills, inspiration

Sharing skills, inspiration

RHS students teach youngsters about robotics

Students hovered around their group tables, hunched over bins full of tiny wheels, plastic connectors, switches, levers and dozens of other bits and pieces. The Fullerton IV fourth-graders excitedly shared their ideas on how to put all the pieces together to create the best and coolest robot. The teams – and their robots – would soon compete against one another.

This scene unfolded in Sandra Bannister’s class in December, where one of Roseburg High School’s three robotics teams had set up shop to teach the students the basics behind robotics. Each group of students was assigned a coach from Team Taurus, which visited the classroom once a week for a four-week period.

“I think this is great,” said team member Madison Bosley, a senior at RHS. “I think that teaching younger kids, starting the idea that they can do robotics at a younger age, is really important, because our future is going to be pretty based around technology.”

Another team has been working with students at Hucrest Elementary School, and the hope is to reach as many as 160 students between the two schools. As part of the competitions the high school students enter, they are encouraged to provide outreach about robotics to their communities.

“I can’t think of a better way to do it,” said Ira Wier, RHS science teacher and robotics coach. “These (fourth-graders) may be our programmers and our designers at the high school in five years.”

This is the fourth year that RHS has offered a robotics program, and this is the first year the teams have been able to provide outreach to younger students on this scale. The teams borrowed some robotics kits from the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub’s lending library, which offers a wide variety of resources for educators around Douglas County to use.

Bosley said she enjoys being part of the robotics program and was surprised to realize how many life skills, such as teamwork and leadership, could be learned in tandem with engineering and other STEAM abilities.

Fellow team member Cooper Sustaire, an RHS sophomore, said he was impressed with how hard the fourth-graders worked together and was happy to see how excited they were about the project.

“They need to get it in their brains early, so that in the future it will come easier,” Sustaire said of the skills that come with learning robotics.

Hucrest teacher Emily Veale said having a robotics team work with her fifth-grade class was a valuable experience. She said having robotics introduced to the kids during the school day gave them an opportunity to not only learn new things, but to have a glimpse of activity options that they will have as they continue on in school.

“It was awesome to see students who are usually quiet or withdrawn come to life during these interactions and robot building,” Veale said. “For some of these students, as many in our district, it is activities like robotics that will be what brings them to school each day. It won’t just be the excitement of building, design and competition, but also because of the friendships that they forge with other students.”

Veale said she also appreciated how the outreach gave the high-schoolers the chance to shine and demonstrate how much they have to offer to younger students.

“These students were patient, kind, hardworking and fantastic teachers,” she said. “It would be amazing if everyone was able to have a student mentoring experience like this.”

Wier agreed, saying he would love to see the program expand.

“I don’t think kids get enough exposure in the elementary school level to STEM; they certainly don’t get one-on-four instruction with highly skilled, highly trained robotics students,” he said.

Douglas County Partners for Student Success and the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub work to support STEAM-related learning experiences around Douglas County. For more information or to check out items from the lending library, visit www.dcpss.org.

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