SPRINGFIELD TWP. The robotics program in the Springfield Local School District has been growing since the first GAR Foundation grant was received in 2014.

Technology Teacher Rob Lane has been working with the program since its beginnings. It was focused on the junior/senior high school students. However, in receiving additional GAR Foundation grants, the district added robotics at the elementary grades.

“This has left Schrop Intermediate without any robotics,” Lane said. “That is where the idea for the latest GAR Foundation grant proposal was born.”

This school year he has worked with Sixth Grade Teacher Holly Reed’s class to start the program at the intermediate level.

Lane has become a regional expert on integrating robotics into the classroom.

“I wanted to share my expertise and my students’ experience to teach a younger group the joy of programming robots,” he said.

The Schrop students are glad he did. They are learning quickly and enjoying the world of robotics. Sixth grader Logan Mason said he liked learning how far you can get the robot going. He said working with the robots teaches them science and math.

Junior high students in Lane’s classes visited Reeds sixth grade class to give them some initial instructions on programming the robots. The sixth graders were first taught to make the robot go forward and back for a specific distance using a calculation and then turning the robot. On a recent return visit, the older students taught the sixth graders more intricate moves with their robots.

Reed has worked diligently to learn about the robots and programming so she can continue teaching the students new things.

The $4000 grant was slated for the junior high robotics team to work with the younger students and purchase equipment.

The sixth-grade students worked to set the robots through the computer to go a certain distance and then stop, turn, back up and responding to their command. Working with the robots is fun but, in doing so, they are learning a lot of math – degrees, measuring, distance and more. Reed said working in robotics teaches problem solving, perseverance, strategizing, ratios.

“We incorporate it mostly into math but certainly it fits into our science standards for experimentation,” Lane said.

As students worked, Reed questioned them asking math questions and what they did in figuring the numbers and measurements to get the robot to respond to what they wanted it to do.

Student Skylor McLaughlin said he and his partner had been working on strategies and speed, and they used a magic number to calculate it all out.

“After you program it, then we test to see if we are right or wrong and if we are wrong. We continue to work,” he said.

Springfield Schools has been able to complete the beginnings of a robotic program in all schools with the hopes of growing it to include more students. The grants from GAR have afforded opportunities to students. The 8th through 12th graders have been able to take two levels of robotics courses. In 2017, robotics was introduced to the 7th graders. A program in 2016 was introduced into the elementary buildings and now into the intermediate school.

Currently, the program at Schrop is serving one sixth grade classroom of 26 students with help from the junior high robotics team of 20 students. Growth in the students in their understanding of math is expected and has already begun to show.

The Summit Education Initiative reports that less than half of all students demonstrate strong math skills by the end of eighth grade. One of the reasons that students are weak in math, especially in the middle school, is lack of motivation and confidence. They find it difficult to understand the why to math. Reed said they often ask why they need to do this, referring to math. Making sixth grade math real and relevant using robotics works well to help students begin their seventh-grade classes. The junior high robotics team is building relationships with the sixth graders also making the jump easier.

After coming back from break, junior high students are heading back to Schrop to help the younger students learn about using sensors and much more. In February, they will visit Schrop to practice competition and using the Space Challenge kit. The sixth graders will form two or three teams to compete in the Springfield Invitational Robotics Competition March 19.