West Chester seniors, second graders share robots

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
West Chester Henderson seniors in the AP Physics class built and programmed robots and then shared their work with second graders at Fern Hill Elementary School on Thursday. (Candice Monhollan)

West Chester Henderson seniors in the AP Physics class built and programmed robots and then shared their work with second graders at Fern Hill Elementary School on Thursday. (Candice Monhollan)

WEST GOSHEN — High school seniors and second graders mixed together in the gymnasium of Fern Hill Elementary School on Friday for a unique experience.

Both sets of students programmed robots this year and, as a fun end-of-the-year get-together, they shared what they did with each other.

The seniors, in Ron Nagy’s AP Physics class at West Chester Henderson, received robotic kits to ease their expunged brains after the big AP exams.

“I figured after the test, it would be nice to do something to keep them busy,” Nagy said. “I put in for a couple of grants and got three of these kits and Paul Joyce (the district’s science curriculum supervisor) got us two more. You can make one robot out of each kit and there are five that they show, though you can come up with your own.”

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After all five robots were built, the students then went about programming them to do all sorts of unique things, including shooting little balls, walking alone along a specifically-colored path, grabbing items with a claw, talking and more.

Just a couple of blocks away, the second graders at Fern Hill didn’t build any robots, but they did program them.

Using Ozobots, small robots younger children can program themselves, the students set to work in Angela McCullough’s class.

“It has been amazing,” she said. “We start them on the computers, and those are tricky steps to get it loaded on a computer, but they are reading the codes.”

McCullough has even been shocked with how well the students have taken to the task of programming.

“They are so pro on a laptop,” she said. “I’m thinking I’m doing the right thing and here I am showing an app and they say, ‘Did you know it can do this?’ They’re very tech savvy.”

Since the two schools are so close, Nagy and McCullough decided to join forces together and have their classes share the robots with each other.

“It’s one thing to show it to your mom and dad, but high school?,” McCullough said. “They’re nervous about sharing, but very excited. We made sure to talk about the word coding and calibrating, trying to bring it down to a second grade level. It has been fun, but it has also been a learning experience.”

Even with the large age difference between the students, everyone was having fun with each other and smiles could be seen on all the faces.

“It really is cool,” Nagy said. “My kids, I can see, are having a ball with them and they are all interacting.”

There was even a special interaction as Madeleine Baker had special permission to attend the sharing as a first grader because her brother, Nathan, was a senior and part of the AP Physics class, and the two could take part together.

Though the high schoolers may not have been quite as awestruck with the Ozobots as the youngsters were with the robotic kits, it was still a unique opportunity for both classes to learn a little from each other.

It was even such a hit that Nagy is planning to do it again next year and, if possible, on and on from there.

“It’s an opportunity that I was just blessed with,” McCullough said. “(The second graders) can see something a little bit higher, building from scratch and what I want them to understand is all the coding is underneath. What you see is the final product, but the coding is all mixed within the computers. To see the finished product from a high-school level is awesome with what it can do.”

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Categories: Education

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