The Henry Cluster STEMM Foundation continues its efforts to promote robotics and establish more robotics teams in the Henry Cluster STEMM Foundation area. Board member Jay Wilson contacted Ellen Immergut, a parent of twin boys at Benchley Weinberger Elementary in San Carlos, about starting a robotics program at her son’s school. As usual, Ellen tackled the challenge and provides the following update:
Thanks to the efforts of a parent volunteer and an amazing new media teacher, the students at Benchley Weinberger (BW) Elementary now have an afterschool robotics and coding program!
Brett Yokom, father of a BW kindergartner and a software developer with a passion for math and sciences, and Devereaux Watson, BW media teacher and a favorite new addition to the BW team, came together in September to get the program up and running. Mr. Yokom was even able to secure a $2,500 grant from his employer, Ansys, through their Ansys Cares program.
The program was initially opened for students in third through fifth grades, and they currently have 40 participants. They started the program with the resources they had (two Dash bots and one Dot bot), which allowed everyone to access the programming interface (Blockly app) via their school-issued Chromebooks, so everyone could be hands-on.
The ultimate goal is to open the program to all grades at Benchley, and once they acquire additional funding, they will add additional products like LEGO.
So far in the program, they have worked on a project in which Dash measures the distance to an object directly in front of it. On the robotics side of the program, the kids code Dash to move in 10-centimeter increments and use Dash’s sensors to know when to stop (with an obstacle placed in front). Dash would then use stored recorded sounds (numbers, i.e. 1, 2, 3, etc.) and say the distance in centimeters. And on the coding front, many of the kids have already done some level of block coding, but this project introduced the kids to some advanced core concepts of coding like variables and functions.
Next week, the participants will again utilize Dash’s sensors and have Dash navigate a maze autonomously.
They are hoping to develop some competition level teams to compete in events like FIRST LEGO and/or Makewonder (the creators of Dash and Dot).
If there are other teams in the cluster willing to share/loan resources, that is very much welcome!
Also, if there are opportunities to collaborate in some with with the teams at Hearst or Dailard, we’d love to explore that as well. Maybe some brain-picking sessions, or even some friendly challenges between the two once we get more set up.
Brett also told me that he’d be interested in helping to develop a general lesson plan/development plan that other schools around the district could follow when initially setting up a robotics program at the elementary level.