By: Alicia Sands Lurry
Imagine being able to program an object the size of a golf ball to roll forward, move backward, and to hit the center of a bullseye.
That’s exactly what students from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and Wesley International Academy did after learning to program sphero balls – small, app-enabled droid robots – at the first-ever Maynard H. Jackson High School Sphero-Versity event on Friday, Jan. 13.
Designed to boost enrollment in Jackson’s robotics program and encourage underrepresented students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers, the event was led by 10 robotics students from Jackson who taught the middle schoolers the basics of computer programming.
Eventually, middle school students learned to program the robots to knock down bowling pins, hit the center of a bullseye, and roll the sphero ball through a maze.
By the end of the day, the students – many of whom represented their respective schools’ robotics teams – competed to see who could successfully master all three programming skills.
“I loved learning something new,” King Middle School student Caesar Rosser said, as he worked to program the sphero ball to make it go forward and then right again. “It would be cool to add a camera to the balls.”
Shevan Howard, IB coordinator at King Middle School, said he hoped the event would help further his students’ interest in STEM education.
“Hopefully, this will provide them with the connection between middle school and high school and build their love for STEM,” Howard said.
According to Shelley Carter, an engineering teacher and robotics coach at Jackson, students also gained leadership experience, as well as presentation and interview skills, from working with middle schoolers.
Tenth grader Ihsan Muhammad agreed.
“It makes you feel older, like being a mentor,” he said. “The younger kids helped me learn more because of the questions they asked.”
Kameron Clark, an eighth grader at King Middle School, said he may now consider studying computer science.
“This is like learning more than you can at school,” he said. “You don’t have to be a scientist or a genius. You just have to be willing to learn.”
Tracy Joyner, gifted endorsement internship facilitator with the Office of Gifted and Talented Education, said the event was a win-win for all students.
“I love to see high-achieving and talented students work together,” she said. “It’s like magic.”