First place finishers at Timber Trail Elementary’s robotics competition: (from left) Sam Crockett, Ben Crockett, Sam Isert, and Clay Arnold. Back row: faculty advisor to the Robotics Club at TTE, Mandy Smith.
Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
Timber Trail Elementary finished its inaugural season of robotics last month by hosting a friendly competition between members of its Robotics Club. Participants learned the basics of programming a Lego Mindstorm NXT robot and then set about programming robots to perform a specified task.
The budding roboticists – all fourth and fifth graders at TTE – chose between two tasks. The first, the “Innovator Challenge,” required that robots be able to clear debris from a miniaturized mock disaster site. The second challenge, the “Music Challenge,” called for robots to “dance” in time with music selected by participants.
“I love robotics because it is a true ‘STEM’ experience,” said Mandy Smith, a fifth grade teacher and the faculty advisor who ran the program. “It really incorporates all those elements of science, technology, engineering and math. It’s an open-ended challenge, so the kids learn patience and problem-solving.”
The culminating challenge allowed students to express their creativity and come up with novel solutions – including portions of the challenge that had nothing to do with the robots themselves.
“I really liked that we had control over the whole project,” said fifth grader Jessica Jamison. “We chose the music for our robot, designed the costume, and even made scenery.”
The entries were judged at a competition in April by TTE Principal Michelle Radke, as well as faculty members Cindy Berndt, Lindsay Cummings, and Karen Kolibaba. First place finishers in the Innovator Challenge were fifth graders Sam Isert and Clay Arnold. In the Music Challenge, brothers Ben and Sam Crockett, a fourth and fifth grader, took top honors.