Robotics Club moves forward with $20,000 grant, new equipment, and Caswell classes
In just its second year, the robotics club has graduated from building simple robots that students direct with radio controls to designing robots that can go underwater,follow lights, and react to sound.
Several factors have contributed to the club’s success, said science instructor and club advisor Sean Fitts. Those include a $20,000 grant that has allowed them to buy new state of the art Lego design kits, two trimesters of Caswell Scholar classes being offered in robotics, and Fitts attending a specialized seminar on robotics at Carnegie Mellon University this past summer.
Fitts is still pushing to generate enough students to fill an elective and to get more students actively participating in the club. What he hopes students will understand is that when they learn robotics they get to learn highly technical science but do it in a hands-on and creative way.
“Robotics is like reading. You don’t even know that you are learning, but you are,” said Fitts.
If you go by Fitts’ room Wednesdays and Fridays at lunch, you will see it bustling with seventh graders working on a robotic arm. Seventh grader Allie said she enjoys working with the brand new equipment and that she is planning to take the Caswell robotics class when she can.
Ninth grader Lucinda has taken the Caswell class and participates in the club, though she said she was not able to attend as many club meetings as she would have like to.
She likes both the robots and “working in a stress free environment,” she said. “You learn how to cooperate with your teammates,” she added.
Collaborative project work is a key element of the class, because every step is a problem-solving opportunity, said Robert Bryan, director of the middle school.
“It’s a valuable collaborative experience because it’s a group of people working together solving practical problems at every step,” Bryan said.
Bryan said in previous discussions with UCLA faculty, it became clear that a background in programming was important for students with an interest in engineering.
“Robotics is an engaging introduction to programming,” Bryan said.