Robots Add Fun and Technical Edge to Unique Lesson for DECA Students

Makenzie Miguel and Audrey Van Rys

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

Kelly Beard’s first-graders learned how to code a computer Tuesday afternoon. So did elementary students from four other grade levels at Denair Elementary Charter Academy. The children loved every minute of it.

The high-tech program involved iPad Mini’s – and small, three-wheeled, one-eyed robots known as “Dash,” which are specifically designed to cater to younger students. The children, working in teams of two, used their iPads to move their robots through five different courses taped on the carpet. The calculations required them to work together to or program their Dash to go forward, turn left or right, and even push small plastic golf balls toward a pretend soccer or basketball goals.

Based on the volume of the squeals and laughter, the hour-long lesson was a huge hit.

“The kids are having so much fun,” said Beard. “This is a great way to introduce them to coding. There are so many jobs out there today in the tech world that require these skills. They need to understand how this works.”

The program was put on by Jose Marquez, the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) coordinator for the Stanislaus County of Education. Beard attended a training event in November featuring Marquez. The two clicked and she arranged for Tuesday’s visit.

“The goal is to have him come back and rotate all our students through this,” said Beard. There are 10 more first- through fifth-grade classes who didn’t participate this time.

Marquez said he puts on two or three similar demonstrations each week around the county. The lessons vary based on the students’ age. The younger students do “visual” programming on the iPad, while the older children must integrate math and reading skills.

“The idea is to interest them in robotics,” Marquez explained. “We want them to be 21st century literate.”

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