After school on Thursdays, the halls of Walnut Springs Elementary echo with the sounds of chatter, laughter and by surprise - gears buzzing.
Last school year, Walnut Springs started a robotics club in hopes of introducing students to applied Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities.
The club is made up of students from 2nd to 5th grade and uses Lego’s popular Mindstorms robotic kits. The kits contain software and hardware to create customizable moving robots that can perform programmed tasks by utilizing sensors.
Parent Matthew Sargent is the volunteer club organizer.
Sargent and other adult club volunteers help bring the students up to speed, showing them how to build the robot and teaching them how to program simple movements. Once the students have a basic understanding, they are set loose to complete missions.
Missions include programming the robot to follow a designated path, move a payload, lift levers and many other tasks.
The missions come with trail-and-error problem solving, including different math puzzles involving number of wheel rotations and order of operations.
“We kind of help them tweak it (the robot) along the way, but ultimately, it’s them programming it,” says Sargent.
The club has garnered much popularity, allowing Walnut Springs to expand the program to include a competition team.
The team is comprised of the top minds from last year’s club. They are given more complex missions and objectives and are currently optimizing their robots to compete for the most objectives completed in a timeframe when they go to competition with other schools this spring.
“My favorite part about it is finding a way to work together with your team to do your best,” said Nicholas Sargent, a 5th grader on the competition team.
Watching excited groups of students in huddles, constantly moving back and forth from their programming laptops to the mission area, it’s pretty obvious that sentiment is shared with many of the others in both groups.
The competition team will attend their FIRST LEGO League Qualifying Tournament on Feb. 4 in San Antonio.
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CAPTION: From left to right: Eliana Castro (4th grade), Grace Brown (4th grade), Johana Aguirre (3rd grade), and Lukas West (3rd grade) work on a mission during a Robotics Club meeting at Walnut Springs Elementary.
Post Updated: Jan. 19, 2017