In the driver’s seat: coding club students program small LEGO cars, robots

By Kim McDarison

It cruised along the Edgerton Board of Education dais, then further delighted those in attendance during the recent (March 13) meeting as it moved across the floor. Yahara Valley Elementary school students, both fourth-graders: Cody Brehm and Adam Nelson, “drove” their small LEGO-built car using a LEGO® Education construction kit called WeDo, enabling them to build and program simple LEGO units, and executed their programs from their Chromebook computers. Small engines, the boys said, within the LEGO car powered the vehicle.

LEGO® Education WeDo, product materials describe the kit as: “an easy-to-use concept that introduces young students to robotics. Students will be able to build LEGO models featuring working motors and sensors; program their models; and explore a series of cross-curricular, theme-based activities while developing their skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as well as language, literacy, and social studies.”

Club advisors, PC Support Technology Specialist Susi Mickelson and Yahara Valley Elementary School multiage teacher Carrie Brehm, said the boys, along with 10 other students, were learning to program their cars and Sphero robots as part of an after school initiative called Coding Club, which, they said, is open to Yahara Valley Elementary School students in grades 3, 4 and 5. and meets for about an hour. A similar club was being offered at Community Elementary School, Carrie Brehm said in a recent telephone interview, but those sections are currently on hold.

The Yahara Valley-based club is offered to 12 students at a time in three-week sections, Carrie Brehm said, noting that club size is limited by the number of technological units available through which learning activities are supported. Still, she said, the club is very popular, so a second “round” was being offered to yet another 12 students beginning in April. That section is already filled, she said, prompting her to entertain the idea of a section in May, if, given time constraints, the logistics can be work out.

The club gives opportunities to students who might not otherwise participate in a structured setting, both club advisors said. “I had such a huge response, I’m looking at May to see if I can do another round. If not, it will kick back up next school year,” Carrie Brehm said.

Teaching students about technology, and developing critical thinking as well as problem solving skills is where the club finds its focus, she said.

Those wishing to learn more about the LEGO-based elementary school programming clubs may do so by visiting the school’s website here.

Update: District IT Specialist Susi Mickelson provided the following emailed update: While the Coding Club which was showcased through its students Monday (March 13) was indeed organized to accept Yahara Elementary School participants in grades 3-5, other clubs have been held to support other age groups. Mickelson, wrote: “I have held the Lego WeDo 2.0 club at both Yahara and Community elementaries with the help of our last LMC Director Kevin Schmitz. He and I also led the Rascal Coding Club that ran last year and offered the opportunity for CE (Community Elementary School) students to learn coding using MIT’s Scratch coding program. This year he and I did Sphero Club at the middle school and then Carrie (Brehm) and I are running two sessions at Yahara this spring. I’m hoping to be able to offer it to CE students before the close of this school year.” 

Usual locations for club meetings are as follows, Mickelson wrote:  at Community Elementary, in the STEM Center; middle school, in the library; at Yahara Valley, in Mrs. Brehm’s classroom, the hallway and the gym. Meetings are usually held for an hour once a week, for a minimum of 3 weeks, depending on the club.

 

child 2 w lego car boy w program boy at podium

Yahara Valley Elementary School fourth-grade student Cody Brehm holds a small LEGO car built in Coding Club (at left)  and presents the WeDo software he used to program it on his Chromebook computer (middle). Teacher Carrie Brehm explains the value of the after school club, an initiative she and PC support technician Susi Mickelson said makes this technology available to more of the district’s elementary-school-aged students.

 

second boy 2  clap for boy

Yahara Valley Elementary School fourth-grade student Adam Nelson shares his program with board members and answers questions about his Coding Club experience.

 

lego car board lego 2

Eager to see the LEGO car (at left) operate, standing for a better view (at right) are board members (from left) Jordan Wileman, Dr. Amy Horn-Delzer, Sue Tronnes and Matt Towns. Yahara Valley Elementary School  teacher Carrie Brehm (far left) explains the process while student Cody Brehm drives.

 

dennis w car car on dias

District Administrator Dr. Dennis Pauli (at left) watches the small LEGO-built car roll by as does board member Kathy Klein. Towns (at right, from left), district PC support technician Susi Michelson, and Pauli find fascination as the boys demonstrate their skills.

 

 

working at club

As presented on a big screen in the district’s LMC, board members watch as Coding Club participant and fourth-grade Yahara Valley Elementary School student Jack Fox tweaks a program he developed using a Sphero to make hot pink painted squares, teacher Carrie Brehm said. “He was rolling the Sphero through the paint, but the squares were too big, or the Sphero didn’t roll, so he had to figure out how to problem solve,” Brehm said. “When he got it, he was so proud,” she said, adding, although his comments were inaudible during the presentation, Fox gave an enthusiastic “yes!” once his project worked correctly. 

(Kim McDarison photos.)

 

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