RUSSIA — Fifth-graders at Russia Local School had the opportunity to learn how to code robots as part of the The Shelby County 4-H Extension Office’s Manufacturing FUNdamentals program.
The program, which began in January 2018 under the umbrella of 4-H in the Classroom, is run by 4-H youth development extension educator Cassie Dietrich and gives students throughout the county hands-on experience with skills pertinent to the ever-evolving world of manufacturing.
According to Dietrich, Russia is one of three schools thus far to have worked with the small robots, called Sphero Bots, with Fort Loramie and Holy Angels also having participated.
“The students are learning how local companies use robotics to make jobs more efficient,” Dietrich said. “Not necessarily to replace jobs, but just to increase efficiency; this includes focusing on things like ‘lean manufacturing,’ and processes that take a little bit less work on the human end and really make it easier on our bodies.”
Dietrich said the robots became part of the Manufacturing FUNdamentals curriculum around November of 2018. This is thanks to funds donated by Emerson Climate Technologies, which were used to purchase the 30 Sphero Bots, along with 15 iPads used to program them.
The bots, as the name implies, are small, spherical machines that, when programmed, are able to be wirelessly controlled.
“The cool thing about the Sphero Bots is that not only are students learning robotics, but they’re doing math the entire time,” Dietrich said. “Math can be a hard thing, but the Sphero Bots make it fun. Math, especially in regards to distance and time measurement, is a true real-life skill, so it’s important for students to learn that.”
Students are able to code the robots via the iPads by using a ratio of speed and time to determine distance. They are then able to have the bots complete mazes by plugging in measurements.
Russia students will continue to learn robotics until the end of February. Beginning next month, the Manufacturing FUNdamentals curriculum will cover hydraulics at the school. January was devoted to learning about plastics.
Dietrich said help from local companies allows her to provide information and materials essential to teaching each curriculum category.
For the plastics curriculum, Plastipak and Advanced Composites provided plastic, which was used to create molds and golf tees; Stolle Machinery and CBT Company has donated items that will be used for the machining curriculum; and Detailed Machining has donated several miscellaneous items to be used for the program, as well, Dietrich said.
While Russia Local School has a curriculum that focuses on a different theme every month, each school participating in the Manufacturing FUNdamentals and 4-H in the Classroom programs differs in their approach.
“The cool thing about 4-H in the Classroom is it really adapts to the schools,” Dietrich said. “I reach out to the teachers and share the different items and lessons I have in my curriculum as a 4-H educator and they pick and choose how they see me fitting into their curriculums.
“The curriculums I teach are designed not to replace what the teachers are teaching, but to complement what they are teaching.”
Dietrich said she currently visits an average of three different schools each week as part of the Manufacturing FUNdamentals program. Her goal is to reach each school in the county.
“We’re currently on a wait-list because the program has been so popular,” she said.
In the future, Dietrich said, the 4-H extension office may look to increase staff in order to meet the demand of the schools if the need continues to grow.