Robots take over sixth grade classrooms

January 27, 2018
Girl builds robots

The Lego Mindstorms robots featured in this article were funded through a generous grant from The Partnership Plan.

In science classrooms at Oak-Land and Stillwater middle schools students are transforming piles of Legos into functioning robots. But what may look and feel like play is actually a lesson in deep learning for the sixth grade students.

“We follow the instructions to build the robot and make it do stuff,” said Anna Landherr, an Oak-Land student. “We get to program it to change directions, to spin in a circle, and to make it do what you say so. It’s so fun!”

Creating and programming robots isn’t just about computer coding, it’s also a lesson in the force and motion of physics, electrical engineering and so much more. The students start by following step-by-step instructions to build the robot and program it to perform basic commands. From there students move to a computer and practice “if, then” sequencing to get the robot to perform more complex, challenge-based, tasks. As they become more comfortable with the coding, they can program the robots to not just move around the room, but to lift objects and navigate courses.

“Everyday they get so excited to come to class,” said Corrie Christensen, Oak-Land Middle School teacher.  “They all build and program the robots, but some of them get so engaged that they’ll actually take them apart and rebuild them into something completely different.”

Teachers love how the lessons help their students to collaborate with their peers while also learning how to follow directions, solve-problems, and persist through failures along the way - all skills vital to a student’s success in the real world.

The sixth grade Lego Mindstorms robots are just one part of a district-wide effort to help students to consider and solve real-life challenges through robotics and engineerings. Students, as young as kindergarten up through 12th grade, are learning computer programming and coding with the help of robots. Our youngest students learn simple coding to help a BeeBot navigate a simple obstacle course, while older students are actually building their own robots and coding them to perform more complex tasks. One group of sixth grade girls actually built and coded a robot to perform a Cuban Fan Dance, which was on display during the recent DaVinci Fest.