Robotics Club gives kids a taste of computer sciences

SETTING UP: Morley Stanwood fifth-graders set up a course for their robot during the recent Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District Robotics and Coding Challenge. (Courtesy photo)

SETTING UP: Morley Stanwood fifth-graders set up a course for their robot during the recent Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District Robotics and Coding Challenge. (Courtesy photo)

MORLEY — Fifth-grade teacher Betty Tramper leads what might be the hottest new after-school activity for Morley Stanwood Elementary students: the Robotics and Coding Club.

In its first year, the club was open to all fifth-grade students interested in learning more about coding and working with robots. Tramper decided to begin the club after learning computer programming and coding was one of the fastest-growing segments of the job market.

What she didn’t count on, however, was the response. In a school with three fifth-grade classrooms, Tramper had 32 students want to join the club. So once a week, she spends time after school with a classroom’s worth of kids who want to work with robots.

“I plan to have a fifth-grade club again next year,” Tramper said. “I originally thought I’d have a fifth- and sixth-grade club, but there’s no way I can do this if the group doubles in size. I anticipate high interest each year.”

The robots — referred to as “Dot” and “Dash” — are premade. While the students don’t build the robots, they do use iPads to build the programming code to operate the robots to perform certain tasks. Recently, the challenge was to “teach” the robots how to play a card game.

“The club provides the students with lots of problem-solving opportunities in robotics and coding,” Tramper said. “It’s also a great opportunity to practice perseverance, sticking with a problem until you come up with a solution.”

Recently, Tramper’s students competed in a Robotics and Coding Competition sponsored by the Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District. Morley Stanwood entered four teams in the contest. One group took third place and won the teamwork award.

“I thought they did fantastic,” Tramper said. “I’m proud of all of them. They worked so independently. Team members did ask me for clarification on some things, but they took it upon themselves to get their measurements done and things like that. It’s good to see them so independent.”

COMPETITION: A team of Morley Stanwood fifth-graders watches their robot perform the task they programmed it to complete during the recent Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District Robotics and Coding Challenge. (Courtesy photo)

COMPETITION: A team of Morley Stanwood fifth-graders watches their robot perform the task they programmed it to complete during the recent Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District Robotics and Coding Challenge. (Courtesy photo)

The students enjoy the club because it allows them to spend time with their peers and, of course, work with robots.

“It’s fun because, for one thing, everybody likes to program robots,” said Logan Meldrum. “That’s the whole point of robotics, is to work with robots. You get to tell the robot whatever you want it to do. There are unlimited things to do through programming.”

“More people should really take part in robotics club because it’s really fun,” said Courtney Miller. “It’s a great chance to work with robots. If you get older and want to work with tech like this, you can learn a lot fast.”

Before the club ends near the end of April or beginning of May, Tramper plans to have an in-school competition for the club members. After that, she may consider using the robots into her science classes.

“I hope to incorporate the robots into my classes more, but I’m probably looking more toward next year,” she said. “Part of me doesn’t want to take away from this club — these kids are feeling pretty special.”

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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