ATHABASCA — Aspen View Public Schools (AVPS) will be holding their first annual robotics showcase May 11, 2022.
While future events may be competitive, this one will be a showcase only with students grouped from Kindergarten to Grade 3, Grades 4 to 6, and Grades 7 to 9 to focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) to create robots to fit pre-determined requirements and the purpose of the showcase is to encourage student engagement in robotics and coding, interdisciplinary thinking drawing upon STEAM to accomplish a collective goal, develop critical thinking skills to find solutions to abstract and concrete problems, among other things, and to encourage fun.
“I tried to make this so that was fair for schools,” said AVPS director of alternative programs Donna Wesley. “Each of our schools has a different number of devices that kids have access to and the division has a lot of resources that schools can borrow but they can't always get exactly what they want every day that they want it.”
So, for this first time at least, the showcase will be quite general, allowing the students at the various schools to use what is immediately available but it’s not just about technology; there is a creative side as well.
“Maker spaces – basically, it's a crafting kind of event, where kids just use their imaginations to create things and quite often, you'll see kids using a lot of cardboard and very little tape and figuring out how to just make things that are fun,” said Wesley. “It’s to make things, create things and you throw all kinds of stuff in there for kids to be creative with; it's a good place for things that are being recycled and that kind of stuff.”
There are five different challenges to take part in like a delivery challenge.
“Students will present and speak to their submission at the Robotics Showcase event,” she said. “This challenge will include using robotics, coding, and maker space materials to ‘move' or ‘deliver' an item from one location to another.”
Kindergarten to Grade 3 can use remote-controlled robots, Grades 4 to 6 can use an out-of-the-box, or pre-built robot but must demonstrate programming skills beyond using a remote control and Grades 7 to 9 should be creating custom robots highlighting their programming skills.
“What's going to define our robots are things that can be programmed to follow certain commands,” said Wesley. “Those commands will vary from pushing a button to make the robot move forward, left, right, or backward for lower grades to higher grades using coding where the robot follows a sequence of commands hands-free or through a device.”
The artistic design challenge is more low-tech and will be created supporting the theme of the event using the school’s maker space and then the students will present and speak about their creation at the showcase.
“Thorhild Central School, they've got some amazing robotic technology that they've used to go to competition all over Alberta where some of our schools may not be able to do something to that ability,” said Wesley. “But they could potentially decide to use a robot where they can push things around like a grader to move things to different places.”
There is also a high-tech 3D printer challenge, again completed ahead of time using resources at each school, following guidelines set ahead of time and the students will present and explain their submission at the showcase.
“They must have the stuff done and then they bring it to the competition,” she said. “They showcase it, they explain to everybody what they did and how they solve the problem, demonstrate how it works.”
A prototype challenge will be done at the showcase, or school, depending on if the event is in-person or online and will require the students to solve a problem and use the maker space materials to construct a prototype.
"Students will have a predetermined amount of time to complete the challenge, after which they will present their prototype,” said Wesley. “Presentations will be limited to 90 seconds.”
The programming challenge is high-tech, includes programming code or building robots and is developed using resources available at each school.
“Students will be given a problem to solve on site following guidelines and criteria in which they will need to use their programming skills to complete,” she said.
Again, they will have a set amount of time to complete the task and 90 seconds for their presentation.
“Students will be provided with some basic guidelines prior to the event so they will be prepared to take part in the challenge,” said Wesley.
For this challenge, the students will bring their own device.
“We can go from as simple as where you push buttons on the back of the little robot, to where these little robot devices exist on their own and then you connect them through Bluetooth to a tablet and on that tablet (and) you have the commands that you're putting in to get the device to move,” she said.
In preparation for the event students can check out examples of technology which could be used including Bee-Bots, Blue Bots, Dot and Dash, Botley, Cubelet robots, mBots, Ozobots, Makey Makey, Lego robotics kits, littleBits, Micro:bit, robotics workshop kits, Sphero, remote robots, coding and robotics kits for beginners, Studica robotics kits, Code.org, Scratch, and Kodable.