November 27, 2020
Robots are taking classrooms by storm, but not like any of those futuristic type movies. Instead, students are being immersed in valuable experiential learning opportunities, which will help them in their careers after secondary school.
Grade 9 students at Northern Secondary School have incorporated robotics in ways that you didn’t think were possible – robots and woodshop?! Well, it’s happening.
Since COVID-19 and enhanced protocols came into place, along with the implementation of an octomester format for the 2020-21 school year, technology teacher, Kevin Baker, and media studies teacher, Carmen O’Brien, worked together to create learning that provides a transferable skillset that students use in both classes thus making for an easy transition from one class to the next in a mode of extended learning.
Both classes incorporate robotics in various ways, which introduces students to a wide range of possible extracurricular and career options.
In Baker’s class, students are introduced to electrical, woodworking, and hydraulics while they construct a fully operational robot to pick masks up off of the floor.
“We are learning the basics of hydraulics with wooden arms. The task is to pick-up masks from the ground and of course no one wants to pick them up with their hands, so we are building a robot,” stated Alex, who noted that there was a lot of planning, designing, building, and learning by trial and error. “I’m very satisfied with the completed project.”
This is a culminating assignment for the students, who at the end of the Octomester, present their completed robot to Baker and test it out. Students design their robot to be a combination of a VEX Robotics, electrically driven chassis with a wooden, hydraulic arm mounted on top. The remote-controlled robot is designed to pick up an unused mask from the floor.
“Woodworking is an amazing skill to have,” stated Alex. “I’ll definitely be using it further down the road.”
A few doors down, students in O’Brien’s class learn how to program robots from scratch using programming blocks in the EV3 LEGO programming software.
“Students have learned how to program robots, how to use three different sensors; touch, ultrasonic, and colour sensors,” explained O’Brien. “They’ve used those sensors to detect objects that are in front of the robot and programmed the robot accordingly so that it can move autonomously through either a maze or through the
First Lego League mission board, and accomplish different missions at the same time.”
O’Brien added that programming can be challenging, so students develop problem-solving skills to identify which parts of the program work, which ones don’t, and why, to get their robots to successfully complete the mission or maze.
“Robotics is becoming more and more prominent in the job market,” stated O’Brien. “If we look at this pandemic, more companies are switching to automation because robots won’t get sick, won’t need time off and can work 24 hours a day.”
She noted that this not only introduces students to a possible career avenue but also helps them develop much desired problem-solving skills that they can use in their everyday lives.