Coding Class Grows Problem Solving Skills
The Lower School’s paradigm of teaching and learning, "Think.Make.Talk." (T.M.T.), is moving up into the Middle School. TMT integrates the "design thinking," "makerspace," and "STEAM" movements sweeping through schools across the country. Through TMT, students have valuable opportunities to present solutions to diverse and discreet problems using a variety of media and methods. In Middle School this year, a new class called Coding and Logical Sequencing was added to the sixth grade rotation to give students the time and space to construct, build and problem solve.
Coding and Logical Sequencing, also known as Robotics, is taught by Anna Head, and every sixth grade student takes this class for two quarters during the school year. The goal of the class is to build robots while also programming them to accomplish specific goals. Concepts from math, science, and engineering are integrated to give students the opportunity to apply what they are learning while finding meaning and purpose in doing so.
During the first quarter, students follow step-by-step instructions on how to build and program a robot. Students have to follow directions with over 160 steps, meet requirements and connect ideas to be successful. While there are different levels of complexity, students consider it challenging enough to follow the robotics “recipe book.” According to Mrs. Head, it’s definitely a lot harder than it sounds. There is a lot of troubleshooting, critical thinking, and problem-solving as students repeatedly discuss what to do when something fails to work. Students constantly ask why and figure out the solutions to their own problems.
Students work with an educational version of the Lego EV3 Mindstorm kits and have the opportunity to learn about different sensors and motors. They integrate sensors in their robots to witness actions and their corresponding reactions. Students build robots that can move in different directions, sense color and neighboring objects, and also sort items on a conveyor belt.
During the second quarter, students are charged with the challenge of building a robotic arm that can move in different directions while utilizing sensors and motors. This is the last assignment before students build a robot of their own design which will compete in a Battle Bot competition. At this point, students can put together the different elements they have learned without directions. And if they are successful, they will be able to create a winning Battle Bot.
Through the process of Robotics, students are forced to think about coding and logical sequencing in the context of their academic subjects. Math and a working knowledge of ratios are integral to ascertain how many rotations a robot will have to execute to get from Point A to Point B. While this can be accomplished by trial and error, students are motivated to use mathematical calculations to get a more precise outcome. Scientific concepts of circuits and electricity are also put into practice as students work with motors to power their robots. Technology and the use of the iPad drive the programming aspect of robotics. After building the robot, students use an app-based software on their iPad to program their robot’s actions.
Students have realized how vital math and science are to their Robotics class and pleased that these subjects have helped them accomplish their goals. Through Robotics, students apply their learning and are able to retain information. Moreover, Robotics provides a fantastic hands-on experience while growing a student’s creative, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.