New Robotics Class Sparks Passion for Learning
Posted 10/22/2015 01:25PM
“They are so engaged. Many times I can’t get them to leave for lunch.” This probably doesn’t sound like an ordinary day at school to you, but Wendy Welshans’ new Robotics class at Forman School is anything but ordinary. “Our kids are project based,” Welshans explains, citing the reason the program has taken off so quickly.
Upon visiting Welshans’ classroom, one can observe both boys and girls in groups of two or three, concentrating intently on building and testing their robots. Novices and more experienced robot-builders work together, and those with less knowledge of the process learn from their peers. They are working towards the 2015-2016 VEX Nothing But Net Robotics Competition December 12th at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, MA this year, and making headway.
“Out of five robots, two can go to competition,” Welshans explains. The groups are working together to build the best robots they can under the tutelage of Welshans, who was trained and certified through Carnegie Mellon in advance of this academic year. She teaches her students about programming, using VEX language, what the different parts do, and how to program each piece. “Basically, I teach them how to talk to the robots. Our aim is to build our robots so they can throw balls from throwers or shooters for the competition,” Welshans says. Forman’s robots will compete with other teams to see who can throw the most balls into a net in 15 seconds in December. “The goal is to let the program run autonomously for that part, and then the robots will run off of remote for 90 seconds,” she adds.
In the classroom, the group has made a labyrinth for the robots. Each day and week has an objective that students must achieve. Every week, new skills are added, such as point and swing turns, which the students recently learned. “I think back to September when we started, and they’ve come so far. In the beginning, even hooking up the computer program to the robot seemed tenuous,” Welshan remembers. “Now, I can put up on the board what their challenge for the day is and they can go right to it.”
Welshans says it’s the most rewarding “watching the kids unleashed, so focused on solving a problem. Watching them grow is awesome.”
Learn more about the VEX Nothing But Net Competition here.