Robotics skills displayed at MCC

March 20, 2019

SCOTTVILLE — Mason County Central Middle School fifth-graders had an opportunity to wow board of education trustees Monday at the high school, where the kids presented some of the work they’ve done and skills they’ve learned this year with robotics software.

Teacher Paul Lundberg and educational assistant Jim Webster brought a group of students to the board of education meeting, where they demonstrated how they’ve used the coding and programming software like Dash & Dot and Blockly to teach a group of small robots to perform a “dance” using tablets.

Parents also watched as the fifth-graders set up their robots for two back-to-back performances in the hallway.

Lundberg said it’s been a positive learning process for both students and educators.

“We didn’t know any more about it than they did, so we kind of all learned together,” Lundberg said. “It was kind of a good balance of challenge and frustration, where you accomplish something. It certainly wasn’t easy.”

Webster said the robotics program has been a natural progression from previous coding work students have done on the computers to prepare for life in an increasingly tech-heavy world.

“It worked out well because we did coding last year on the computers, and it worked out well for them to pass on what they learned in coding to programming here,” Webster said.

Students set up their own profiles in Blockly, and then go through a series of puzzles, games and animations, working with variables to manipulate a graphic interface, according to Webster.

The small robots can be programmed to respond to voices and sounds, changes in elevation and other factors. They can move, display light and sound patterns and more as a result of the options chosen by students.

“It’s pretty realistic, like real coding,” Lundberg said.

The fifth-grade robotics group meets on Thursdays. There are four fifth-grade classes that take robotics classes, funded by a grant from Code.org.