Last year, Gifted Education Specialist, Victoria Hauser, was awarded a $2,500 grant from Farmers Insurance “Thank America’s Teachers” program. Hauser applied for the grant with the intent of integrating robotics into her classroom instruction. Exploring a STEM approach, students will be using coding, critical-creative thinking, and problem-solving to program robots for completion of various tasks.

After observing a science and robotics camp’s STEAM[i] approach, Miss Hauser knew she wanted to expand the Makerspace[ii] and STEM[iii] components in our current TLC Horizons program to make those elements of learning more impactful.

“These approaches are great opportunities for students to discover how to learn and explore the world independently while also developing affective qualities like perseverance and team work,” shares Hauser. She knew robotics instruction could provide an authentic and rich environment for critical and creative thinking.

When Central received the grant, Hauser had her eye on Ozobots, as well as Dash and Dots robots. Ozobots, which were purchased in a set of 15, have sensors on the bottom that read color and light. They’re versatile, for they can be coded in low-tech ways like using markers on paper or coded online by holding the sensors up to a loading pad on a screen using a student-created program. These mini robots can hold up to 500 commands at one time! “Ozobots give us the best bang for our buck,” reports Hauser, “to explore robotics and coding at an introductory level while also allowing students to work individually with their own robots.”

The Dash and Dot kit includes two different robots that are Blue Tooth powered and all the accompanying accessories. Using operating apps downloaded to their iPads, students pair a device with a robot and create a program to make it run. More sophisticated than Ozobots, the Dash and Dot robots interact with students using different cause and effect commands and respond to external stimuli, such as voice commands.

Hauser continues to research where STEM education will likely go. She’s considering integrated the fully manipulative LEGO Mindstorm EV3’s and LEGO WeDo 2.0’s, for they allow students to build their own robots to achieve specific tasks. She’s especially eager to integrate into the fourth grade Horizons curriculum that tackles NASA engineering challenges.

Hauser’s ultimate vision is to expand robotics beyond her gifted program and integrate them into numerous other classrooms. “We’re created in God’s image, and He’s a God who is a thinker and problem-solver,” says Hauser. “At Central, we’re not just exploring those characteristics of our God, but we’re preparing our students to embrace the world in an innovative way as stewards of our communities and environment. I want every student at our school can benefit from experiencing the current state of technology in our world.”

[i] STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math
[ii] Makerspace – An exploration lab where tools, materials, and project ideas are provided to students for them to build, experiment, and learn at their own pace.
[iii] STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math