Teachers from all over Cape Cod and instructors from as far as Alabama attended a training session this week at Mashpee Middle High School on VEX Robotics.
The fast-spreading robotics program has attracted attention from students and school systems alike by offering opportunities to build and program robots.
In the program, teams of students are tasked with designing and building a robot to play against other teams in a game-based engineering challenge.
The training session highlights efforts put forth by the Cape Cod Regional STEM Network, housed at Cape Cod Community College, which is attempting to grow the program on Cape Cod and enable schools to create clubs and competitive teams for those interested. Eight school districts, including Bourne, Dennis-Yarmouth, Sandwich and Provincetown, are involved.
Robotics kits worth $45,000 were distributed by the STEM network to the school districts. Michael Looney of Mashpee Middle-High School and Bridget Burger from Cape Cod Community College, both members of the network, drafted the grant proposal.
“Before this event it was cost-prohibitive to try to establish a team,” said Clifford Dorr, a teacher from the Martha’s Vineyard school district. “But through this grant, it takes away the question of money and lets us do it, which is great because we definitely have students [who] are interested in competing.”
Ms. Burger was made the director of the group last October. She and Mr. Looney began collaborating on the event more than a year ago.
“When I moved back here to Cape Cod, I was shocked that there was no VEX Robotics program, so I wanted to bring that here,” she said. “It is a phenomenal platform for students to learn basic engineering design skills as well as team work, problem solving and much more.”
The teachers involved in the course used hands-on training to learn all aspects of the machinery and were aided by three professionals from the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation (REC) from Alabama, Connecticut and Ohio. The REC sends out a group around the country to travel and train people in robotics, with grants being a part of its efforts to expand horizons.
This program is a futuristic step for the classroom, but it was students and not the school systems that caused it to get into motion.
“When Bridget suggested that we could participate last spring I wasn’t sure, but I really like the idea of the students competing with other schools on the Cape,” said Susan West, from Barnstable Public Schools. “Once I had a meeting with some students to measure interest, there was a lot of students that were interested, which was important to me.”
The training will culminate in the creation of teams from each school, with a competition scheduled at Mashpee High School at the Mini Maker Faire on April 27. The event is open to the public.