The White Rock Elementary robotics program will be expanding next year thanks to a $3,000 gift by the WRE Dads’ Club, which presented their check to grateful team members yesterday. The program, called Botball, is based on curriculum from an Oklahoma-based company, and WRE is the first elementary in RISD – in all of Dallas – to feature the program.
“We purchased one robot last year using the little club funding we could find,” said LHHS 2009 grad and WRE 3rd grade teacher Meagan Collier, who sponsors the team with Kindergarten teacher Catherine Needham. “Because we could only afford one robot, we knew our program would be small.”
Only 5 computers can be hooked up to code and control the autonomous robot, which the kids named “Wallaby,” meaning 5 students could participate. Almost 20 students applied for the team.
“We had them write an essay and make a selfie video explaining why they should be selected and their interest in robotics and coding,” said Collier. “We ended up taking 6 on the team because we just couldn’t narrow it down to 5.”
Having six team members sharing 5 computers had an unexpected benefit – the kids were forced to learn to work together as they solved a challenge code to manipulate the robot.
You can view the kids’ video here.
Despite bonding as a group, the kids admit they are looking forward to adding to their ranks next year. The Dads’ Club donation will enable the purchase of 5 additional robots, growing the team to about 20 kids.
“We want each robot to have a team so that our students can compete against each other,” Collier told me. “It’s an exciting time in education and I’m happy to be leading this STEM based program of coding and robotics at the elementary level.”