Through WVU’s CREATE Lab ‘Arts and Bots’ program fifth graders at Mountainview Elementary School are learning about robotics, computer programming, and engineering-themed concepts of design and production. This innovative program provides the opportunity for students to combine crafts with robotic components to build and animate their own robotic creations utilizing custom visual programming software.
Headed by Jeffrey Carver, Associate Professor of Science Education and Director of STEM Education Initiatives in the College of Education and Human Services, ‘Arts and Bots’ rely on a team of teachers and graduate assistants; including Robyn Addie, Joy Kiehl, Marie Allen, Erica Skorlinski, Heidi Doty Patton, Jeff Garvin, Lawrence Mubwika, and Mike Leshko.
Groups of students design their projects based on guidelines set by Carver and the teachers. A recent classroom group focused on biomimicry, which involves creating an object that imitates a living organism. The students’ creations were designed to mimic a plant or animal using servos, motors, and LED lights along with the programming to control the actions of their robot. Garvin’s class focused on biological characters interacting with the atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere.
“The students are very enthusiastic and at times have some very grand ideas which is wonderful, for example using a motion or light sensor in the eyes or ears of an animal to start and stop the programming, all the way to the simplest of ‘bots’ where a dog’s eyes will light up and it’s head will move,” said Graduate Assistant Michael Leshko of the project.
Carver described the teachers’ enthusiasm for the program, adding, “With the adoption of the NxGen Science Standards starting in the 2016-2017 academic year, more teachers are calling for assistance with meeting standards related to scientific and engineering practices.” He noted that the program “can do that and much more by addressing content in areas of science, English-Language Arts, mathematics, social studies, art, technology and others.”
“I would like to see every child have a positive experience with STEAM related topics, including some basic computer programing skills by the time they leave middle school (preferably earlier). The programming languages available through this program include a simple visual software that even children as young as 4 can utilize as well as developmentally more complex programming languages like SNAP, SCRATCH and ARDUBLOCK,” said Carver.
For more information on CREATE Lab and ‘Arts and Bots’ at WVU, please contact Dr. Jeffrey Carver at 304.293.3841 or via email: Jeffrey.Carver@mail.wvu.edu
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