By Mario Tarradell, Public Relations & Marketing Manager
Remember back when you were a kid and you got a remote control car for Christmas? Remember the excitement to build it and make it move with that little hand gadget sporting a few buttons and an antenna?
Welcome to the 21st century.
During three consecutive Fridays in November, 16 children at Anson Jones Elementary in Dallas relished the opportunity to construct a futuristic robotic vehicle using the Lego Mindstorms EV3 curriculum. The after-school classes, dubbed the Go IT program, featured four teams of 4th and 5th graders engaged in hands-on experiences tailored to boost their interest in and knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Thanks to Big Thought Thriving Minds After School’s partnership with 4H Tech-Wizards, Tata Consultancy Services and Southern Methodist University, these TMAS students were treated to the use of robotics, laptops and track mats. Eleven volunteers and Tech Wizards, both TCS and TMAS mentors, were on board to increase technology awareness and foster innovation, both of utmost importance and vitality to the youth in our urban counties.
“The Go IT Lego Robotics class was a great opportunity to expose the students to the IT world and give them the chance to interact with IT professionals on robotic activities that were interesting and fun for them,” says Jose Sosa, Big Thought Program Manager at Anson Jones Elementary. “The students had a blast working with the Lego-robots and they were very engaged learning about coding using the computers to make the robots move.”
That’s right, there were no mere buttons and antennas here. The notebook-styled laptops were essentially the remote controls. Coding needed to be plugged in to make the robot move.
But first the kids needed to build the robots. Ah, that was a sight to see. How incredibly gratifying to watch kids pour over an instruction manual and figure out amongst themselves who will do what in the construction. Such liberation builds character, fortifies social-emotional learning, and leads to a greater understanding of more than just building a robotic vehicle.
“Once they worked out all the kinks, with our help of course, they began to create together, sharing ideas, and seeing their work transform before them,” says Ashley Brooks, a Big Thought Teaching Artist who was part of the Go IT team. “Some groups moved at a fast pace while other groups chose to take their time, being careful not to make any mistakes. I expressed to them that this was okay. When you’re creating you must take your time to make sure you’re doing the best that you can do.”
Watching one team of four girls finish the robot and then make it move was particularly enthralling. They were eternally thrilled, beaming with a sense of accomplishment as the robot cruised atop a long table. That same spirit filled the classroom on the final day when all of the students received certificates for completing the Go IT program.
“The students had the opportunity to not only learn from each other while completing a difficult task, but they also learned some new things about themselves,” says Brooks. “Each day they met to work on the robot was better than the time before. Once completed, they marveled at what they had done and were extremely proud.”
Big Thought’s Thriving Minds After School program is grateful for the generous support of ACE; City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs; The David M. Crowley Foundation; Dallas lSD; Lockheed Martin; Roy & Christine Sturgis Charitable Trust, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee; Target; Texas Instruments Foundation; The Pollock Foundation; Wallace Foundation; and United Way.