It never ceases to amaze me when I see a middle school student excelling at virtual robot simulations, a seventh grader using computer code to solve a STEM problem, or an eighth-grade robotics team brainstorming ideas and then developing a full-blown operating robot. Even these tiniest victories go a long way, with students getting hands-on with advanced technologies and then taking that experience to college and/or out into the workforce.
Challenged by budgetary constraints, time limitations, and the wide selection of new classroom technology that’s being thrown at them, K-12 districts aren’t in the best position to set up onsite robotics and coding classes for their students. To overcome these challenges, several West Virginia schools are leveraging a technology platform that’s completely online, and that’s helped them bring the fascinating world of robots to a wider band of students.
Here’s how you can do it too.
1. Find an internal champion to lead the cause. To think beyond basic K-12 curriculum and truly prepare students for today’s work world, you need a champion to get behind the cause. We found ours in Donna Burge-Tetrick, superintendent of Nicholas County (WV) Schools. She secured a grant from the West Virginia Department of Education to provide a robotics instructor to support teachers in robotics implementation. She has also continued to fund and support all aspects of our program, which is now growing steadily.
2. Pick products that complements your school’s current resources. We’re using CoderZ by Intelitek, a platform that is completely online with virtual robot simulations, thus reducing the need for robotics kits and pieces. This has helped us cut equipment expenses to a minimum and, even better, our teachers need no specialized training to teach robotics classes, which cuts the costs even more. This is particularly beneficial for districts that have been unable to establish or expand their own robotics programs.