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STEM Preparatory Academy student's near completion of their Scribots

posted Jan 27, 2015, 4:43 AM by Karl Wendt   [ updated Jan 27, 2015, 9:24 AM ]

Just before 4:30pm on a cold Monday in January, Hillary Sims, the principal of STEM Preparatory Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, walks down the long polished linoleum hallway floor, past the bright blue doors and billboards with neon green accents to make the day's final dismissal announcements over the intercom. Moments later, the hallway is buzzing with activity as students begin pouring into the school's cafe for club Scribot.

The STEM prep cafe is flooded with natural light from huge windows facing the late day sun. The walls are brightly colored and lined with long book cases. Each table in the cafe has several small clear Sterlite plastic bins next to an open laptop computer.

The students quickly find their partially assembled bots in the bins and they rearrange them to sit closer together. Within seconds they are building. They pull out their clear laser cut plastic parts, shiny stainless steel screws, printed circuit boards, and vast assortment of rainbow colored ribbon wires to begin the task of connecting the parts. They have a transcendent focus.

Students learn how to build the bot by following instructional videos running on their computers. Each student works at his or her own pace. If they don't understand something they can rewind without feeling like they are holding anyone else up. They also collaborate with their peers and look for new ways of solving the challenges they face. Rueben and Addisu, DCA's volunteer computer science mentors, continually orbit the students offering helpful hints and additional guidance when needed.

They have already overcome several challenges like learning the names and functions of the parts, orienting complex part assemblies correctly, understanding how to make difficult connections between the parts and being patient when a part breaks or they have issues connecting to the project website.

Soon the students will begin teaching their robots to draw using computer code.