LAKE TWP.  Today, some form of robotics can be found in many companies, businesses and industries. And, the use of robotics will only grow into the future. 

Lake Local Schools is preparing their students for the future by learning coding and robotics starting in kindergarten and carrying through the 12th grade.

Today’s robots and those of the future are much different than robots portrayed in early televisions shows like the mid-1960s “Lost in Space.” That robot could really only make its lights flash, talk robot ease and its arms wave in the air.

Robots today can be found in major industries such a health care, agriculture, food preparation, manufacturing and in the military. They can be found in production lines in most manufacturing, there are surgical robotic arms and safety forces use robots to search for bombs in buildings,

Lake Local Schools Technology Integration Specialist Melissa Dills said students start in kindergarten to learn about robots through basic programming and coding. 

“The expectations of teaching the use of robotics and coding is to help our students learn problem solving and build basic math and reading skills starting at an early age,” Dills said.  “Any school subject can be incorporated into these lessons, and they offer a huge engagement piece for the students.  Each project has a manual that the students have to read and follow. They learn they have to pay attention to detail.”

She said it also teaches the students valuable soft skills such as communication, collaboration and problem solving.

“We are on track to far exceed our expectations because our teachers are finding great value and our students are loving the robotics and coding experiences,” Dills added.

Dills said the robots and coding program are mandates the district received from the community to provide 21st century technology to students when Lake passed its last school bond issue in May of 2015.

“We are also preparing our students for the jobs of the future," Dills said. "The fields of robotics, programming and computer science are booming and will continue to do so in the future. The teachers have been so receptive, and they have put a lot of time into learning the technology themselves. It’s really an exciting time to be in education.”

Dills said students at every grade and every class will be using robotics and coding at Lake. Assistant Superintendent and Director of Technology Pat Carroll agrees the use of this curriculum is beneficial for students.

“We will not be able to keep up with these kids when they reach high school. The skills they will have will be incredible,” Carrol said in a published statement.  

Most of the funding for the robots came from PTO groups throughout the district. The following list provide details on how robots and coding are being used in each grade level.

Grades K-1

Students are introduced to robot construction kits called Cubelets involving small color coded magnetic blocks. Different  types of modular robots can be created depending upon how the action, sense, and thinking Cubelets are snapped together.  

Grades 2-4

Students in grades second – fourth are learning to code small blue, circular shaped mobile Dash and Dot robots, (when properly coded they can move and speak), as well as use a computer app called Blockly on their iPads. Blockly allows students to create colorful, simple drag-and-drop block coding, as another introduction to computer science.

Grade 3

- A five-week Robotics Boot Camp program has also been conducted with hands on support from 10 high school GenYes students. The boot camp started in early November. GenYes is a career tech program where students learn as part of their curriculum to be support resources throughout the district.

- Ten Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot kits are being used, and allow third graders to quickly build, program, and command their own LEGO robots.   Robots can be programmed and commanded to drive, shoot, slither, walk, slam, spin, and much more; a EV3 Programmer App can be downloaded to their laptop computers allowing students to bring their robot to life.

- Boot camp guest and volunteer Brian Neiss, a Lockheed Martin mechanical engineer and parent of Mrs. Mullen’s third grade student Hunter Neiss, has also been talking to the students about careers in engineering and robotics, work done by different types of engineers, and engineering completed by his employer.

Grades 5-6

Students in grades five and six are using Lego Wedo 2.0 “Milo the Science Rover" robots to complement their earth science unit about territories; they are also using the documentation tool to complete a writing unit.  Students are also using the ‘Spy Robot’ to learn how to code a sensor and record their own voices. All fifth and sixth grade students will be participating in these hands-on building and coding activities. 

“In every class in every grade, kids work in groups, promoting communication, collaboration, and cooperation,” said Dills.

Grades 7-8

At the middle school, students are being introduced to developing mobile apps using MAD-learn software. It allows students to plan, design, and create a computer app to present information in a high-tech way with a home page, buttons, etc., vs. creating more traditional written reports or Google/PowerPoint slides.  

Grades 10-12

GenYes students starting in 10th grade are developing and using high level computer skills to troubleshoot problems with software and hardware, assist staff and fellow students with technical issues, create videos and other presentations, and complete other computer-related, technical projects as assigned. 

Within the past few years, several of Lake’s GenYes students have earned prestigious GenYes certification after successfully completing a rigorous list of IT tasks including technology integration and break-fix computer issues, and after interviewing with a panel of GenYes employees.