(TNS) — Rising sixth-graders McConnell Burdette and Matthew Slaton stood anxiously watching their Ozobot, a miniature robot, knock down tiny bowling pins Wednesday morning.
They tested their robot’s movement coding nearly a dozen times. When their robot would go off course, they would check its placement and their code sequencing on an iPad.
But when the robot got a strike, the boys high-fived and jumped in the air to celebrate their success.
About 30 Anderson School District 4 students sat in the hallways and the engineering lab at Pendelton’s Mount Lebanon Elementary School working on robot coding exercises as part of the district’s summer science and technology camp.
“This is a thinking and logic camp,” teacher Beth Harrison said. “Kids naturally are intuitive. They’re playing, but they don’t realize their learning.”
The two-week camp is for gifted and talented rising sixth-grade students. The students can participate in the camp for free because of a grant from Bosch.
The grant pays for the camp, which included a trip to Charleston where the students visited the H.L. Hunley, a Civil War-era submarine, and the Boeing factory.
Camp activities also included computer programming as well as robot-driven Lego chariot races and robot bowling.
“My favorite part is working with the Ozobots, doing the coding and bowling with them,” said Emma Yost.
The 11-year-old student from Mount Lebanon Elementary sat on the floor drawing a path for her robot with different colored markers on a roll of paper several feet long. The different colors act as codes for the robot, which follows the lines.
The number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives such as the camp is growing since the state Department of Education’s adoption of the new Profile of the South Carolina graduate. The profile is a model of skills a high school graduate should have, such as critical thinking and problem solving skills.
“We are teaching students to approach standards in a different way,” said Mount Lebanon Principal Elliot Southard. “It’s about trial and error. We are reprogramming the brain. So often kids think about the final product. STEM helps them focus more on the process.”
Through the camp, Bryson Pardue, a Pendleton Elementary School student, has found a new interest and possible career.
“If I did this more, I could learn how to make apps (games),” Bryson said. “I didn’t think about doing that until now.”
District 4 Assistant Superintendent Charlotte McDavid said because of the camp’s success, she wants to expand it in the future to include the district middle school to recruit them to STEM pathways in high school.
“It’s a tremendous asset to students to help them connect what they’re learning in the classroom,” McDavid said.