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Robots Invade Broward County Public Schools At 'Battle Of The Bots'

Robots are invading Broward County Public Schools.

On Wednesday, a “Battle of the Bots” capped off three days of robot training for about 100 Broward teachers who will be bringing the robots to their classrooms this fall. The robots are being provided by a grant from NASA and the Robotics Education and Competition Foundationto give students hands-on building, coding and engineering experience.

“The robotics jobs, STEM jobs – they’re high-paying, low-staffed and important,” said Christopher Martin, who is helping develop the new Robotics curriculum at Cooper City High School. “We have people that have to learn to communicate well, to document their process, to work with others and sort out arguments and fail. We teach kids to fail, and fail often, and keep working.”

Some of the teachers said their schools already had brought robots into the classroom, though the ones provided by this grant (called VEX robots) are higher-end.

Credit Allison Light / WLRN
Gabriel Andrews said the training was helpful in identifying which parts of construction and programming the kids might struggle most with.

“I had a student who was really quiet, really shy, really kept to himself,” said Gabriel Andrews. He teaches at Stranahan High School, an engineering magnet, which had previously incorporated robots in its curriculum. “After the in-classroom robotics competition, he was starting to come out of his shell. You would see him smiling a bit more. He would have interactions with some of the students.”

Schools are being encouraged to host smaller robotics competitions amongst themselves, and the school district will host a regional to qualify teams for the state level tournament, where students could compete to go to Nationals and then Worlds.

The teachers think the competition aspect of robotics helps pique interest and get students involved so that they will hopefully continue pursuing programming and engineering"

Credit Allison Light / WLRN
Thia Thomas felt confident that her bot ("Botty") could crush the competition.

“The direction that our technology is going is more robotic,” said Thia Thomas, a sixth and seventh grade science teacher at Coral Springs Middle School. She’ll incorporate a robot into her after-school program. “This also will build the team-building, and we have to go through the scientific design process in order to build the robot and solve the problem. So it’s not just making them work together as a team, but it’s also exposing them to newer technology."

The grant will be rolled out over four years, starting with 55 Broward County schools for the 2017-18 school year.

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