Growing robotics programs spark student interest
Middle school students in the Higley Unified School District are taking control of robots – and their learning – in programs designed to teach science, math, teamwork and fun.
Both Sossaman and Cooley middle schools offer robotics as part of the curriculum and through before- or after-school clubs.
The robotics program is part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) options at the schools and gives students some free reign over their learning environment. This club allows students to explore their interest in robotics at another level.
According to Cooley teacher Bradley Nicholson, half of the students interested in robotics want to make robots for battling competitions and the other half want to build robots that complete task-oriented competitions.
“The club is basically a place for students to be once a week that allows them to express their interest in the world around them as it relates to STEM,” Nicholson said.
“I have always liked dealing with robots,” eighth-grader and Cooley Robotics Club vice president Jacob Wilson said. “I help with the club announcements and I also help out our team in the competitions. We always try to do our best to win.”
Sossaman Middle School, under the direction of John Burke since the school opened in 2013, has made several advancements in its robotics program, too. The school hosted its third annual VEX IQ tournament last fall, with 28 teams from the Valley invited. Nine of the teams came from Sossaman Middle School, Cooley Middle School and Cortina Elementary School, all part of the Higley district. In addition, Higley High School math teachers Jason Sixkiller and Robert Frederick brought eight engineering students to be judges.
“Their participation was instrumental in our event’s success,” Burke said.
VEX IQ is a type of robotics platform used by STEM programs in schools around the world. Competitions are held at the local, state and world level under the REC (Robotics, Education & Competition) Foundation.
Teachers work to create additional opportunities for students. Sossaman received a Microchip Team Grant last fall. Robotics clubs qualify for state extracurricular tax credit funds.
Students from across Higley have already qualified to compete in state robotics matches. Two teams – one from Cortina and one from Sossaman – have also qualified for national competitions.