Technology is now ubiquitous. Kids seem to be born knowing how to use it. Still, if they want to keep up with the technology curve, they will have to learn to build, program, and code. As a result, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) has recently become a focus in the education world.
A few years ago, Hebrew Academy of Tidewater began offering a computer- coding club. Students who complete the course are eligible to enroll in the Robotics club the following semester.
Today, robotics is one of the most challenging clubs offered at Hebrew Academy. At first glance, the class appears to be just a group of kids playing with LEGOs. In reality, the club requires advanced skills including the ability to create an idea and a plan for the robot design, which can be easier said than done. This semester, students were divided into groups of two and given a challenge to build a car that would compete in a race against the other groups’ cars. Each group’s design and function varied. Some cars were boxy and traditional, while others were fast and small. One car was even able to climb over obstacles.
The next task was to create a robot that had two functions of their choosing. Students worked diligently despite many frustrations. Imagine working for hours to find out that you have to undo every piece because one important part was missed. At other times, students had to redo many steps to improve the robot’s function. Other groups had to redo their robots multiple times to get them to work. Once the robots were built, the students coded and tested them to run. After all the hard work and robot completion, students were excited to race their robots and compete in a “Robot War.”
Robotics is a great exercise in failing, trying, failing, and trying again. The projects are quite advanced with minimal adult intervention. Two third graders, Simeon Arnowitz and Sheyna Friedman created a robot following an online guide that was designed for middle and high school students. Kids learned a great deal while having fun. Through the robotics club, students developed important skills that will prepare them well for the changing world of technology.
– Rabbi Yitzchak Menda, Judaic Studies director