Quaker Valley students turn to robotics after school
December 18, 2014 12:00 AM
Tegan Welsh, 10, and Ilijana Hasak, 11, work on building a robot during an after-school program based on robotics, technology and coding Monday at Quaker Valley Middle School in Sewickley.
Bobby Patterson, 12, works on a "disco ball robot."
Hunter Hoose, 11, and Ilijana Hasak, 11, work on their "dragon with a unicorn head" robot.
Friends since kindergarten, Bobby Patterson, 12, (left) and Conner Sinewe, 13, work on a "disco ball robot."
By Shellie Petri Budzeak
When it comes to after-school activities, a group of Sewickley area students is happy to spend the time sharpening their robotics and programming skills.
It’s all part of Remake Digital Learning Corps, taking place Mondays through December in the Quaker Valley Middle School.
The workshops, funded by the Pittsburgh-based Sprout Fund, offers students in grades 4-8 a chance to learn basic robotics, coding and programming skills.
According to the Remake Learning Digital Corps’ website, “Today’s youth spend more than eight hours a day using digital media — playing games, participating in social networks, producing and consuming media. These experiences are rich with learning potential waiting to be harnessed.”
Students who are attending these weekly workshops have the chance to use Scratch programming software to create and share stories, animations and games; MaKey MaKey, a basic circuit board and robotics kit that turns anything it is connected to into a touch pad that interacts with a computer; and Hummingbird, a robotics kit for beginners that involves motors, sensors and electronics — all designed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers.
In the past, Digital Learning Corps workshops have been held at other Pittsburgh area locations. This is the first year in Quaker Valley.
The Hummingbird kits, which are plugged into a computer, are able to control LED lights, sound detectors and motion detectors,enabling students to create movable robots that light up and respond to sound.
During a recent Monday workshop, Osborne Elementary fourth-grader Milo Hasack worked on using a Hummingbird kit with a group of other boys his age to build a ghost. Amid a small mass of wires and a device that looked like a circuit board, they “were doing all of the lights: positives and negatives,” and, “the LED will light if it’s working,” Milo said.
Eighth-grader Marguerite Courtney was building a snake out of a Hummingbird kit and a cardboard tube. She and partner Miranda Moeslein, also an eighth-grader, already had attached red and blue LED lights for eyes. They were working on an editing sequence to make the eyes change color.
“We’ll probably add a motor to have him move,” Marguerite said. “We’re mostly experimenting right now. It seems nerdy, but it’s really fun,” she added.
Miranda, who recently took a Digital Design class at school, agreed. “I learned coding, and I really liked it,” she said.
Ashley Mutschler, eighth-grade language arts teacher at the school, is the Learning Corps mentor. She said each week more and more students show up for the workshop. A former technology specialist in Texas, she used to help teachers find ways to integrate technology into their classrooms. Now working with students in the Digital Corps workshops, she hopes to help students integrate technology into their own learning.
“I hope that it gives students hands-on experience with programming and sequencing,” she said.
Shellie Petri Budzeak, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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