Weber implements new robotics program

Weber implements new robotics program

Students at the Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School have the chance to experiment in the world of engineering beginning this fall with the addition of a robotics program.

The program, which was funded by the Ed. Foundation, will be offered to all students at Weber and will allow them to “be exposed to the growing field of robotics in a deep and meaningful way,” a news release said.

“We are very fortunate to have this opportunity and we plan on taking full advantage of it,” said Chris Shields, the Weber principal. “We definitely have a head start in teaching our students computer coding.”

Sixth- through eighth-graders will participate in the program, which  will integrate Nao robots, software for over 20 user stations and curriculum with staff development, said Becky Schamis, the vice president of marketing and communications for the Ed. Foundation.

Last June, Schamis said, the technology staff at Weber completed two days of training to learn how to use the Nao robots. The staff is scheduled for four more days of training this year, she said.

“This had a clear impact on our current sixth-grade students, because the moment the doors opened for this school year, children were running up to our rooms asking about the Nao robots,” said Thomas Stepanek, a Weber technology teacher.

Shields said the idea for the program was presented to him in the past year, and when he saw the passion the teachers had for robotics and the program, he asked the Ed. Foundation for funding.

After Stepanek completed his first year advising the high school robotics club, “it was evident we should build on this program,” Shields said.

Teachers were looking for new ideas to enhance the curriculum, Shields said, and they realized robotics involved different aspects of computer sciences, problem solving, physical science, math and engineering.

Schamis said the robots “enable teachers to increase their ability to expose students to a variety of problem-solving skills, along with basic programming, making them better prepared to continue their study of robotics through high school to college and beyond.”

According to the Robot Lab website, Nao robots are programmable humanoid robots.

Shields said Nao robots can work across other disciplines, too, and the school is planning to use them for other instruction.

“This can be a great way for students to express themselves and have a greater overall academic experience,” Shields said.

“Engineering focuses on problem solving and using knowledge from core subjects like math and science to overcome challenges,” said Kathleen Mooney, superintendent of the Port Washington School District. “This is an effective way for students to learn how to find creative solutions to real world problems.  Engineering is a field with a wide range of opportunities that includes building structures to developing applications.’’  

Eighth-graders will be the first group to use the Nao robots and will share their presentation in a few weeks, Schamis said.

By Stephen Romano

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