School launches robotics team

October 30th, 2017

By Samantha Whiting | KPC News - The News Sun

Eight eager third-graders from Albion Elementary School were chosen out of the 36 who applied to be part of the school’s new robotics team, even though it meant giving up recess three days every week.

The team, lead by technology integration specialist Brian Wesson, was funded by the TechPoint Foundation for Youth as part of the State Robotics Initiative. The initiative’s objective is to provide a hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning experience to Indiana students, according to the foundation’s website.

The only qualification for the grant was that the elementary school could not currently have any form of a robotics club. After hearing about East Noble School Corp.’s robotics teams, Wesson applied.

“We didn’t have anything like it at the time. It fit for us,” Wesson said.

Thirty-six of the 53 third-graders at Albion Elementary School had applied to be part of the team. Due to the size of the robotics kit the grant provides, only eight students could be chosen.

Wesson used an application process to select the eight team members.

“They meet during their recess, so one of the questions was: Why do you want to give up your recess to do robotics?” Wesson said. “So they explained why they wanted to do it.”

They also had to describe something they had built with their hands, which showed they had prior experience in constructing something, Wesson said. The third question asked what happened when they got stuck on a problem.

The team meets three days a week during recess, which lasts approximately 30 minutes. Currently, they are split into three groups, with different tasks to work on during each meeting, Wesson said.

Two groups build one of the two robots that were included in the kit. The third group reads the rule book and manual to prepare for a tournament. Participating in one tournament is a requirement of the grant.

“We’re just getting started, so it’s all new for all of us,” Wesson said.

Third-graders were chosen as the grade level to participate on the team because the fourth- and fifth-graders already have the opportunity to be involved on the school’s tech team.

Wesson said he hopes to see more than one team in future years.

“When you have that much interest, it’s hard to turn away,” he said. “But I’m only one person, and we only had enough to do the one team. In the future I hope to see it expand.”

As for the current team members, it is unknown if they will be able to continue after they finish third grade.

“These kiddos right now are asking, ‘Well, Mr. Wesson, what about next year?’ because they’ll be fourth-graders, and it’s only third-graders,” Wesson said. “It’s something that I haven’t quite figured out yet, but as we move forward, I plan to come up with a plan and find a way that they can continue doing this, as well as getting new third-graders.”

The team will participate in its first tournament after winter break.