GRANGER TWP. — Students at Highland Middle School were tooling around with Legos on Tuesday afternoon, but it wasn’t all fun and games. There was plenty of learning going on.
The students were using the Legos to make robots that perform tasks, such as picking up trash.
Brenda Magier, a gifted education coordinator with the Medina County Schools’ Educational Service Center, said such projects are increasingly important now that robotics have applications in everything from medicine to the military.
“It’s a way to get kids early exposure to hands-on type of math and science technology … where they can get excited in those fields and they may go on to pursue engineering or any other science or technology,” she said.
“There’s a need for them there, because robotics is in everything,” she said.
Elementary and middle school students across the county are going to be learning more about robotics and then coming together later in the school year to show off what they’ve learned. It’s all thanks to a new group called the Medina County Robotics Network.
Magier, who organized the network, said some schools had robotics clubs or robotics instruction in the classroom prior to the group. However, the teachers rarely collaborated.
“There are teachers in the districts who are interested in robotics, but it’s usually just one teacher who … has a club or is doing it in their classroom. What we decided was to create this kind of central network where teachers could come together and talk about their ideas,” she said.
Students from throughout the county will use Lego robotics kits to learn about programming concepts. Then they’ll be putting their skills to use at events over the next few months.
The first event puts students together in teams to build a robot. Then, they start preparing for Robofest, a robotics competition founded at Lawrence Technological University in Michigan. Then, the Medina County Robotics Network will host the only Robofest-qualifying event in Ohio at the Medina County University Center in March.
The network also was able to receive grants for robotics instruction. Magier said the group received about $10,000 from MTD Products, the Liverpool Township-based outdoor power equipment manufacturer. It also received an approximately $11,000 grant from the Cleveland-based Martha Holden Jennings Foundation.
The Medina County University Center also has donated the use of the center and staff to host the Robofest.
Magier said it all has been a big help, especially since local districts have been cash-strapped in recent years. She said student robotics groups “have really been in danger of being eliminated because there’s no real funding to support this and robotics instruction is expensive.”
Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Medina County Robotics Network events will be at the Medina County University Center, 6300 Technology Lane, Lafayette Township:
• 9 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 29: Robotic Mascot Challenge & Intro to Robotics. The event is free for fourth- to eighth-graders in Medina County. The students will work in teams to program a mascot for the Medina County Robotics Network. There’s also an alternate workshop that will teach beginner students basic programming. Preregister at www.medina-esc.org.
• 9 to 11:30 a.m. Feb. 26: Robofest Training Session & NXT Programming. The event is free for fourth- to eighth-graders in Medina County. Students should bring their Robofest projects to receive feedback from judges and mentors. An alternate workshop will be offered for beginner students in which they will work on programming challenges. Preregister at www.medina-esc.org.
• 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 26: Robofest. Robots made by students in grades five to eight go head-to-head in three separate competitions. Cost is $50 per team. Find information and registration guidelines at www.robofest.net.