What is the WCS Robotics Club? Washington County Schools Information Systems Department is sponsoring a Robotics initiative to demystify computer programming and robotics concepts to 4th and 5th grade students within the WCS district. Each school will receive the training and materials to conduct a Robotics Club for their students. The time, location and frequency of the meeting will be determined by each of the schools. The Lego Mindstorm kits will be used; however, this is not a club associated with First Lego League at this time. The goal is to reduce costs and require a minimal investment from the schools and families in order to reach a larger population of students.
How does our school get started? The best way to begin is to simply host a student workshop. We can customize the instruction to your allotted timeframe as an afterschool event (max 3 hours) or in the classroom (min 20 minutes). Each school can schedule the date and time convenient for their students and faculty. Having multiple workshops will allow the students the exposure to the robots and interest will build with each event. We will provide the robots, laptops, software, field mats, obstacles, Legos, and many instructors to get everyone comfortable with the robots. This initiative will take time to mature, but we will all be amazed how the students will excel rapidly. Just contact Lisa Okes (firstname.lastname@example.org 276-739-3065) to schedule your workshop.
What is the cost for participation? Currently, there is no fee involved with the Robotics Club. The equipment can be donated or loaned and made from basic materials. We want to include every interested child. A fundraising effort might be used to purchase t-shirts or supplies. I would also like to find a way to compensate the leaders.
Who can participate? The goal is to reach every 4th and 5th grade child regardless of financial means or academic abilities. The middle schools and high schools have other programs already in place for further advancement in the field of robotics.
What type of robot will be used? We will use the older version of the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education packs. We have access to several loaner NXT 2.0 robots. The NXT Base Set and Software Pack #5003404 is currently $395.95 on https://shop.education.lego.com. The kit contains 431 elements including the NXT Brick, sensors, charger, cables, and build instructions. Since we are using the older version, there are several second hand sets for sale as current owners upgrade to the EV3 Core Sets which currently run $433.95. These kits are used for educational purposes in many environments such as www.usfirst.org, www.tsaweb.org and many others. http://www.bricklink.com is a great resource for spare parts.
What software does the robot need? The robot uses the NXT Mindstorm Software available FREE to download at http://www.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms/downloads
What obstacle course will we use? The Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center has generously donated six of the 2014 Field Kits for our schools to use. Abingdon Elementary School also has a field kit from their participation in 2014, so we will all have the same playing field. To learn more about the World Class Challenge of 2014 visit http://www.firstlegoleague.org/challenge/fll-world-class-resources
How can I learn more? The internet is FULL of information. Do a search on Lego Mindstorm, First Lego League (FLL), robotics, animatronics just to name a few. There are several promotional videos for FLL on YouTube. Teachers also have unlimited information. I suggest starting here - http://www.nxtteacher.com
How can I get involved as an adult? Contact the school principal or Lisa Okes (email@example.com) to be connected with the program. Volunteers from WCS and the community are greatly appreciated. Guest speakers and special guests will help enrich the students’ experiences.
Could we include 3rd graders? The 4th graders were included to provide continuity for the Robotics Clubs throughout the years. I don't think we can include the 3rd graders. I really think the age limit is important with the robots. There are similar activities in the Jr. FLL group that 3rd graders can do separately. Another important point is the goal to provide every child the opportunity to have hands on experience with the robots. I think we need to keep the numbers down or children will be left out completely. We typically have a limit of 10 on the FLL team so we are going way beyond that limit already.
Would parents manage this club once it's started? I welcome anyone interested to manage the club. That is really up to each school. Other schools have the science teachers involved. As a parent, I couldn't stay away. It was so exciting to share with the children.
The goal for the workshops scheduled for December 22nd, January 2nd and 5th is to see who is interested. Lisa Okes will be the main coordinator for all the elementary schools. The Technology Department will set up guest speakers and help with equipment or any obstacles. We need all the help we can find.
How do we get training? Contact Lisa Okes (firstname.lastname@example.org or 276-739-3065) to set up an introductory presentation for the interested adults and then another student workshop to demonstrate how to use the robots. The WCS Robotics Club is targeted for Jan-May while the FLL teams run Sept-Dec.
How do we start an FLL team? Deborah Hensley is the Business Manager at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center and can provide you more information on funding, sponsorships, and organizing a FLL team. Her email is: DHensley@swcenter.edu. FLL has changed the process for registering teams in their system. Each team has to have two coaches when the team is registered. Each coach has to have a background check done. The process is very simple for the background investigation. SWVaHEdCtr is no longer able to do the registration for the teams. Here is a link that has more information regarding registration. https://my.usfirst.org/fll/tims/site.lasso The teams can just be a group of friends that want to get started. They do not need to be associated with any school or particular organization.
How does computer programming help with college? Learning the basics of programming can launch your student into a world of Technology. Regardless of their economic state, there are several opportunities to further their education. The Washington County Community Scholars program offers 2 free years to VHCC for a qualifying high school student that has participated in the program 9-12 grades. Ask your guidance department for details. Also, this online university offers a degree in Computer Science for any qualified adult. http://uopeople.edu/groups/coureses/computer_science. Although UoPeople is tuition-free, it is not completely free. All they ask from their students is to pay an application processing fee of $50 and Exam Processing Fees, which are $100 per exam. For students who are unable to pay this amount, UoPeople has a variety of scholarship programs designed to meet the unique needs of the students.
What can we do from home? There are several resources online to introduce your student to computer commands and robotics. One place to start is to go through the Hour Of Code from the https://code.org website. Also explore www.codecademy.com, www.alice.org, www.khanacademy.org, and https://twit.tv/shows?shows_active=1. Learn Swift and create your own App https://teamtreehouse.com/learn-swift. You can find lots of programming ideas here - http://www.nxtprograms.com/1-button_remote/index.html. Give them a try!
Keep the questions coming. I enjoy ironing out the details. - Lisa (276-739-3065 or email@example.com)