Fourth Graders Steer Robots to Success

The MICDS Upper School Rampire Robotics team recently charged up their robots and invited fourth graders to tackle a maze challenge in the robotics lab in McDonnell Hall. Varsha Devisetty ’23, Director of Community Outreach for Rampire Robotics, helped coordinate the event with the goal of introducing students to STEM activities and highlighting the opportunities available with robots. She said, “We had a robotics event for these students last year, and the goal was to let them experiment and explore with robots. Now, it’s time to build on that event from last year and show how robots are used to complete specific goals. We hope this event inspires the kids to be more involved with STEM and robotics in the future.”

The robot maze was designed with taped grids on the floor, and students used mini robots called Spheros in small groups to code their robots to navigate the maze. “I was most excited for the kids to code the maze. We worked really hard to tape the maze to the ground, so I was excited for the kids to code it,” said Devisetty. Rampire teammate Penny Chen ’23 shared in the excitement. She said, “I was most excited about what the kids were going to be able to do, as the maze we organized was new compared to last year. Additionally, I hoped it would be really fun for them.”

While this activity does not directly connect to a particular current unit of study in Lower School science, some fourth graders have had the chance to join the after-school First Lego League (FLL) team. Through FLL, students build EV3 robots that they code using Scratch-based programming. In FLL, students train their robots to compete in various missions, including a maze course similar to the Rampire team design. The Upper School robotics event was a welcome opportunity for FLL students to compare their coding expertise and see how it works on a different robot. In addition, students who did not join FLL gained experience connecting to robotics as a consideration for Middle School.

Wrangling an entire grade level of Lower School was challenging for the Upper School students, but the Rampire team was able to steer the younger students to eventual success. “The most challenging part was getting everyone organized in the beginning. The kids were a little overwhelmed by where and how to start, but once they got going, they were really immersed in the challenge,” said Devisetty. “I was surprised by how focused the kids became on finishing the challenge. I loved hearing the excited cheers yelling ‘yay’ or ‘no’ whether their robot code worked or not. All the kids were engrossed with the activity, learned so much, and became really excited about robotics,” she added.

Chen agreed and said, “One thing I was worried about was the kids sharing their coding opportunities with their groupmates, but I found that they all worked together, and it was really nice to see, as teamwork and collaboration are important aspects in both STEM and life in general.”

Way to code and roll, Rams!