Robotics partnership becomes official
Area fifth-graders will get more chances to work with robotics thanks to a partnership officially cemented this month between the Barrow County School System, South Korean company RoboRobo and the University of Georgia College of Education.
At a ceremony at Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology in Winder, College of Education Dean Craig H. Kennedy signed a five-year agreement to work with RoboRobo and the Barrow school district. The partnership connects state-of-the-art robotics from RoboRobo with research-led educators, who then create lesson plans that will be used by Barrow County teachers. The event took place in the robotics lab at Sims Academy, which has been outfitted with robotics kits, posters and work areas courtesy of RoboRobo.
"I really feel like we're stepping into the future with this partnership," said Barrow County Schools Superintendent Chris McMichael. "We're just extremely pleased and looking forward to a long partnership."
Craig H. Kennedy, dean of the UGA College of Education, echoed the superintendent's sentiments. "It's an absolute pleasure to enter this partnership," he added. "We are looking to the future and the future of our children."
The collaboration began less than a year ago with a simple email request by Ikseon Choi, an associate professor in the College's Department of Career and Information Studies, for RoboRobo to visit the United States and give a robotics workshop to College of Education researchers. This turned into a workshop for local teachers hosted by UGA, and less than six months later the South Korean company and the College began mapping out how to bring more robotics into local schools, with help from the College to develop the curriculum.
Now, thanks to more than $20,000 in robots, plus newly written lesson plans created by College of Education researchers, the program is entering fifth-grade classrooms across Barrow County this spring. Teachers are attending periodic workshops hosted by UGA for tips on integrating other topics, such as math, earth science and engineering, and create healthy class discussions during and after the robotics lesson.
Adding robotics into lessons is a hands-on activity that allows students to use problem-solving skills while solving math equations, using geometry and computer programming skills, and understanding spatial relationships. It's also something that's still not widely available, says Choi.
"Accessibility of good STEM education is an issue, in the United States and elsewhere. We bring that issue into our research," said Choi. "Now we are looking not only at Barrow County, but across the United states and beyond."
Although for the next few months, it's fifth-graders in Barrow County who will reap the benefits of this new curriculum and the latest in robotic technology. The next project for the kids will be assembling a wheeled robot that's about the size of a soda can, then programming it to stop at points across a grid that simulates volcanic terrain.
Lee Bane, STEAM integration specialist with Barrow County Schools, noted this is technology that would not be possible without the help of all parties involved.
"No single entity entering this partnership can do what we can do together," he said. "As educators, we have stewardship in something important, and that's youth. Families entrust us with their students, and this kind of project is only available when we come together."