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Students learn simple robot programming

Claude E. Garton project helps students engage with technology and learn how to program simple commands on Lego robots they built themselves.
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Vincent Fogal Caitlyn Embury Paige Peremesko
Nine-year-old Claude E. Garton Public School students Vincent Fogal (from left), Caitlyn Embury and Paige Peremekso showcase a robot they built in class to learn about simple programming. (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY – Youngsters interact with technology each and every day.

But often they have no clue what powers it.

For that matter, neither do many of their teachers.

On Wednesday students at Claude E. Garton Public School, along with their teacher, got a sneak peak at how to program simple motion in a Lego robot.

It was pretty cool, said eight-year-old Hunter Birch.

“I liked building the robot and how it could kick the ball. We built it out of Legos and used wires. We had to plug it into a computer and it worked,” Hunter said.

Classmate Hadyn Jensen said building a working robot was a lot of fun and educational too.

“It’s important so you know how to work technology and stuff,” he said, adding his favourite part of the day was seeing it actually work.

“It was fun,” nine-year-old Hadyn said.

Teacher Allison Arnone said there were plenty of learning experiences for the children.

“They build the robot according to instructions. It’s also a procedural thing. And each of the robots is based on a sample machine. For example, today we were working with a robot that works with a lever for the action,” she said.

“Then they used the software to give the robot tasks, basically. Today the robot has an engine, a motor that causes an axel to turn and make the lever swing. We were trying for the first time to see what it would look like to program the robot to do that thing.”

Given the technological world students are growing up in, it’s never too early to give them an authentic, hands-on experience.

“It’s the best way for them to learn how to do it. If you think about it, they use this technology all the time, but they don’t necessarily know how it works either. And if we don’t teach them how it works, in the future they’re not going to have the tools they need to be able to be in a world that relies so much on technology.”

And who knows, she added, it might inspire a student or two to pursue a career in programming or robotics.

You never know, Arnone said.

“There are a lot of lucrative jobs in programming and you do think ahead about where they’re going to go after they’re finished school. And it’s interesting. A lot of the students who find some of the things that we do less engaging will respond so much to this kind of learning because they feel like it applies to their own lives too.”