Curtis Meyer reporter
Pitt State has been awarded a grant by the Kansas Space Grant Consortium, affiliated with NASA, for a summer teacher’s and student’s workshop at the Kansas Technology Center. Each Summer Pitt State hosts a student learning experience for kids ages 9-13, using Lego robotic systems to teach basics of programming.
“What the grant does is specific to providing STEM workshops for teachers, in a way that promotes opportunities in STEM education and outreach. The work we’re doing had to be a way for us to present the NASA Space Science Directive. Which is basically NASA doing robotics and putting things out to explore the cosmos, like putting rovers on Mars and things of that nature,” said Professor Norman Phillip.
Phillip is a professor in the KTC here at Pitt State and leads the workshop program. Each Summer, a variety of local STEM teachers, ranging from elementary to high school, attend a smaller workshop, where they are taught the basics of Lego machines programming.
These teachers then take this and teach local kids how to run the programs themselves, helping in their early STEM education. The hope is that both teachers and kids will come away from the program with a better understanding and methods of teaching these STEM basics in their own classrooms.
“[I], Randy Wisner, and Eric Mayer, we developed a grant proposal to add a teacher workshop onto our existing Adventures in Robotics Workshops. Those have been ongoing for twenty-plus years now, Randy Wisner started that, and I recently took over as coordinator after working with him for around seven years. In that we work with kids on utilizing Lego robotic systems to learn the basics of robotics and programming,” said Phillip.
With this new grant, they get to add to the new teacher workshop and upgrade their existing equipment. On top of this, each teacher who is participating will take home their own Lego robotics set, which they can use along with the curriculum to teach their students the same STEM concepts.
“It was something we had been talking about doing for a while and the grant provided us an opportunity to do that. Additionally, the money from the grant also enabled us to upgrade all of our old robotics systems. We were using an old RCX system which was twenty-plus years old, but we upgraded to the Lego Spike Prime sets, which are the current marketed systems,” said Phillip.
This grant will translate into an enhanced experience and learning opportunity for both teachers and students attending this workshop in June. There is a small fee to attend for the students, covering the costs of t-shirts and snacks. Phillip hopes that the experience will inspire kids to pursue a career in STEM, whether they attend Pitt State or not.
“Really what we’re doing is using robots as our tool to teach applied problem solving to students and get them to start thinking in that way. Hopefully, this is not a requirement but hopefully, we might get a few of them back here in the college of technology. I’m always eager to have some more back, we’ve had a few who because of the work in our program they’ve gone on to do first in FRC robotics, here in the southeast region,” said Phillip.