Updated: Jul 17, 2018
Guest post by Giulia Pucci
Moniteau STEM Day was a day to remember. Students from first grade through sixth grade had the opportunity to explore technology in ways they had never experienced before. It’s sad to imagine that these young minds aren’t exploring their true potential through the wonders of technology, but the students at Dassa McKinney Elementary School are lucky enough to have an incredible librarian, Mr. Cody Whitton, who noticed this drought in knowledge. I had the opportunity as a preservice teacher to be a part of Mr. Whitton’s vision for a day dedicated to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at the elementary level.
Before STEM Day, I was scrambling for ideas. How could I impress these students? What would wow them and inspire them to explore STEM further? I was introduced to so much technology this semester, but I had no idea what would suit these students best. That’s when I discovered the Sphero robots. These little spherical robots work similarly to an RC car. Connect the Sphero to the iPad by Bluetooth and you’re ready to go! Even deeper than the ability to drive the Sphero around like a toy car is the ability to program. The Sphero EDU app allows students to practice click and drag programming, getting them used to the logical style associated with programing.
This was perfect. My sister and I drew up a bunch of maps, mazes, and race car tracks to bring, and I was thrilled to impact the students at Moniteau School District. My initial plan was to let the fifth and sixth grade students program, and let the younger students drive the Sphero using the app’s joystick feature. Both groups would use my mazes and racetracks as models. After seeing these students’ hunger for technology and innovation, I just let them all play. I let them take ownership of their learning and drive the Spheros through the tracks of their choice, and I couldn’t have been happier with the result.
The students experimented with speed, direction, turning, and control. They were entranced with a tiny toy that can do such wonderful things. Then I turned their conversations toward STEM. When asked how they could apply this to their future careers, they looked at me like I was crazy. “It’s just a toy.” “Look! It’s like an RC car!” I demonstrated how to program the Spheros and connected this simple app to being a Robotic Engineer. I told them that if they enjoyed the idea of programming the Sphero robot, then they could do that for a living, and they went wild. I’ve never seen students so excited to learn and investigate future careers. Students of all ages were thrilled. Quenching the thirst of students itching for knowledge is the most rewarding task. My day at Dassa McKinney Elementary school for Moniteau STEM Day exceeded these expectations. All I brought was a bunch of sheets of paper with mazes drawn on them and a couple of Sphero robots. I only spent 13 minutes with each group of students, and in 13 minutes, I knew I made an impact for many young minds. Moniteau STEM Day was a day to remember. Not only for myself as a teacher, but for these students starting to think about their futures as learners.