Twenty-eight Woodland Elementary School fourth graders recently walked to North Springs Charter High School with their teachers, eager to meet their high school mentors - the Spartan Robotics Team - and build solar powered cars.
This was their second meeting since the North Springs Robotics team members walked to Woodland Elementary to launch the mentorship program they created and named: Operation Hyper Thread.
“We found a robotics team forming at the middle school but none at the elementary school and we wanted to bridge the gap and get students excited about robotics at a younger age,” explained the North Springs Robotics team founder, senior, Tarrek Shaban. He wrote a grant for $2,500 and the Sandy Springs Education Force funded it. NSCHS matched the funds.
Tarrek added, “We’re working with fourth grade TAG (talented and gifted) students. Our goal is to introduce them to new elements of robotics each month, and not lecture. We want the kids to learn by doing."
And by all accounts they are having fun doing it.
“The students are definitely excited, they love it,” said Woodland TAG teacher Lea Artzi. “In fact one student is moving back to India and she made her parents wait to withdraw her until tomorrow so she could come to robotics at North Springs today.”
At Woodland the children were challenged to build tall towers from three pieces of newspaper in a classic engineering example of creative problem solving. At North Springs, working in small groups with their high school mentor the fourth graders built cars using K’nex, duct tape, small motors and solar panels. The mentors provided some but not too much guidance.
“My group really worked on its own. It’s cool. Every time they got it wrong they redid it and got it right,” said senior Gautam Ravichandran. “It was hard to get the front wheels to work,” said David Watson.
According to nine-year-old, Audrey O’Toole, what she and her teammates liked best was “how you can make the car any shape you want without set instructions.”
At the end of the session the students took their cars outside in the bright sunlight. And for all but one team, the solar panels absorbed the sun, powered the motors and the cars took off. Watson’s team lost its wheels but smiled anyway.
“Both schools hope this becomes as annual partnership,” agreed NS robotics sponsor and math teacher, Everett McCoy, and TAG instructional support teacher, Alan Dale. “And at the end of four short years, hopefully they’ll be Spartan Robotics Team members,” added Shaban