HIGH POINT, N.C., Feb. 27, 2017 – “Tonight’s challenges are a little harder than they were last time, aren’t they?” asked Dr. Shirley Disseler, associate professor of education at High Point University. A room full of middle school students nodded their heads and simultaneously answered, “Yes!”
Thanks to an $8,000 grant from Daimler Trucks North America and Thomas Built Buses, students from Johnson Street Global Studies, Ledford Middle School, Jamestown Middle School and Immaculate Heart of Mary Middle School are taking part in HPU’s first Lego Robotics Competition designed to prepare the next generation of STEM leaders.
Disseler welcomed middle school participants and their teachers to the second round of robotics challenges, explained the tasks that each team must complete, allowed time for questions and then set the students free in a room filled with robots, iPads and challenge courses designed to test their programming skills.
“It’s been fun. Working as a team and overcoming the challenges has been my favorite part,” said 14-year-old Spencer Millard from Immaculate Heart of Mary Middle School. “It’s made me think about an engineering job.”
The program includes four robotics challenges held monthly on the HPU campus, where two teams from each school are invited to complete tasks designed by HPU School of Education students. This second round of tasks required teams to direct their robots in picking up bottles, drawing shapes and following a crooked path as closely as possible. HPU students lead and judge each competition as part of their STEM master’s work.
“We do a lot with elementary school students, but this is really our first time working with middle school students, and we hope to expand it and grow and next year bring in even more schools,” said HPU School of Education graduate student Taylor Niss. “Preparing students at a young age with STEM education is extremely beneficial. If they’re exposed to it as early as kindergarten, when they get to middle school the concepts aren’t as foreign to them. It’s great to see that the kids are really excited to be here. Because we’ve designed the program with stages and challenges, I’m not sure that they even realize that they’re learning.”
Though the students may not recognize that they’re learning, their middle school teachers do.
“The students have learned engineering skills, programming, teamwork and problem solving,” said Arch Stroud, a technology teacher at Jamestown Middle School. “And, I’m still learning. This program is as much for the teachers as it is for the kids. They get excited every month leading up to the challenges, and we meet at the library a couple of times to plan and practice challenges that we’ve put together. I lead a larger club at school, and I’ll have them use the skills that we learn here. It’s important that I really pay attention so that I can take it all back. The skills learned here are reaching a larger audience than just the students who are able to be part of the team here at HPU.”
Each team received a technology and robotics kit in January when the first competition kicked off. The event continues with two more challenges, to be held 4-6 p.m. on March 30 and April 20 at the Webb Conference Center, as teams grow and evolve their robot.
March 30 4 p.m.-6 p.m. in the Webb Conference Center.
April 20 4 p.m.-6 p.m. in the Webb Conference Center.