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The City Journals

Teacher brings robots to elementary school

Jan 25, 2017 05:07PM ● By Tori LaRue

Ty Levesque and Spencer Call, both fifth-graders at Rose Creek Elementary school, organize a robotics kit during the school’s first before-school robotics club meeting. Cammie Chang, a sixth-grade teacher at the school started the club after receiving a grant from Kihomac, a company that works to renew and extend aerospace investments. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]
Sixth-grade teacher Cammie Chang didn’t want her students to have to wait until middle school and high school to have exposure to engineering, so she started a before-school robotics club at Rose Creek Elementary.
“My husband’s in the field, but he really didn’t have the opportunity to study like this until high school,” Chang said. “If you’re not getting exposed early, you may lose your chance to go into something like this. Most of the time in high school students have already chosen their interests and cliques.”
With the sixth-grade curriculum expanding in the 2017–18 year to include more experiments and hands-on approaches to science, Chang said she thought it was the perfect time to get the school’s fifth- and sixth-graders more interested in the fun parts of science, technology, engineering and math—or STEM—learning.
Chang had her eye on Lego robotics kits, but the school couldn’t afford them without help. For just five robot kits, it would cost the school nearly $2,000. Chang sought alternative funding by writing a mini-grant to the company for which her husband works, Kihomac, which specializes in renewing and extending aerospace investments through technical data development, systems and software engineering, reverse engineering and prototyping and complex manufacturing.
The president of Kihomac granted Chang the $2,000. Jordan School District also bought Chang a robot for starting up the club, bringing Chang’s total number of robots up to six, enough to start Rose Creek’s first robotics club.
Nine students arrived for the first club meeting Jan. 10. Although the first meeting’s focus was on organizing and getting acquainted with the pieces of the robotics kits, students were already concocting ideas for the robots they wanted to create later.
“I’d like to build one that could go get me a soda out of the fridge,” fifth-grader Spencer Call said. “That would be really cool.”
Madison Sorensen, a sixth-grader, said she was hoping to program a robot to lift something up. Her robotics club partner, Sierra Cowley, agreed, adding that it would be exciting to see a robot do anything, as long as it was something that they programmed it to do.
Sierra said she got into coding and programming in fourth grade, so she said she was excited to use those talents in the robotics club where she could create something that would move on its own. The club may also help Sierra in her future career plans, she said, adding that she’s considering becoming a computer programmer as one of her top three career options.
Maison, who wants to become a lawyer or a nurse, said the robotics class can also help her progress toward her future professional goals.
“These robots—they could teach you how to problem solve, and that can help you learn new things anywhere,” she said.
While the club will work on its own this year and get a grasp on how to work their new robotics kits, complete with a robot brain, sound sensor, motion detector, touch sensor, ultrasonic sensor and gyro sensor, Chang said she hopes to expand the club’s reach next year reaching out to similar clubs at other elementary schools and meeting up for robot competitions and games.