In another creative project, eighth graders collaborate to design and build a miniature sustainable village. The students design the village in Google SketchUp, a computer-aided design program, then construct the community using LEGOs and recycled materials. The village includes businesses, a school, and a transportation system (no cars allowed), all operating off of sustainable energy sources. The class even elects a “town council” to govern the village. The St. Andrew’s IT department recently acquired a 3D printer that will be available for teachers to incorporate as a learning tool, and Harth is already working on ideas for how best to use the printer in future science projects. The revolutionary process of 3D printing will fundamentally change what people and businesses can make, and offer new options for solving problems. While Harth is excited about designing curriculum applications for the 3D printer, she also points out that it is merely a tool. “Technology tools change every day, which presents a challenge for educators to teach students in ways that will mean something to their futures,” Harth says. “My goal isn’t to have students learn how to use a robot or a 3D printer, but to develop the ability to learn any new tool. It’s to teach them how to take what they learned and apply it to many situations. I want to help them learn how to figure things out by themselves, not just hand them answers. Learning is a lifelong process.” Harth herself is still learning new ways to solve problems every day. While she has had the ability to develop courses at every school where she’s taught, St. Andrew’s has given Harth a level of creative freedom that she feels has made her a better teacher. “St. Andrew’s is the first place I’ve worked where I’ve had the time and the freedom to experiment and discover what works best, which can be different for each student. As a result, I am better at teaching. I’ve grown more as an educator here at St. Andrew’s than I have in 20 years of teaching elsewhere.”
ROBOTICS SKILLS APPLY TO CAREERS IN A NUMBER OF FIELDS, INCLUDING MANUFACTURING AND MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY. ROBOTS’ ABILITY TO GO WHERE HUMANS CANNOT ALSO MAKES THEM INVALUABLE IN DISASTER RELIEF RESCUE EFFORTS, EXPLORING EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS, OR CLEANING UP HAZARDOUS WASTE.
THE ST. ANDREW’S ROBOTICS PROGRAM St. Andrew’s students are introduced to robotics in fourth grade science, and continue to study building and programming robots into Middle School. “Robotics reinforces the problem solving skills students learn in science class, but takes the teacher out of the process,” says Michelle Harth, eighth grade science teacher. “Students are given a problem to solve, and must figure out how to program their robots to do it. The students build, program, and run the robot, and also get their feedback from the robot. When it doesn’t do what they imagined it doing, they have to figure out where it went wrong and try again. Robotics teaches students not to be afraid to make a mistake. If it doesn’t work the first time, it’s okay to try another approach to the problem. With robotics, they never run out of challenges.” Middle School students have the opportunity to join the St. Andrew’s robotics team, which meets after school and competes in the FIRST LEGO League, an international robotics competition. Students are given a problem in August and charged with developing a program and building a robot to solve it. The robots are placed in an obstacle courselike test setting called a field to complete the task, with points awarded or deducted based on how well they perform. “FIRST LEGO emphasizes cooperation,” Harth says. “The competition is based on teamwork, professionalism, and working with other people, including people on other teams. It’s not unusual to see a team call out for a part they need and a competing team run over to give it to them. That’s the way problem solving happens in the real world.” The St. Andrew’s robotics team of Lauren Watson, Zach Bobbitt, Jack Smithson, Wynn Garriga, Satwik Pani, and Charley Hutchison won the Central Mississippi Region of the international FIRST LEGO League competition. MEMBERS OF THE WINNING ROBOTICS TEAM ARE (from left) Zach Bobbitt, Charley Hutchison, Wynn Garriga, Lauren Watson, Satwik Pani, and Jack Smithson.
Published on May 22, 2014
Published on May 22, 2014
Archways is the flagship publication from St. Andrew's Episcopal School, an independent, coeducational, preparatory day school serving stude...