A Role for Robots in STEM Curriculum at Elementary Schools
Liam Robinson, second from left, works the iPad to lead Dash the robot through an obstacle course as Charles Boyer, teacher Danielle Cavone, Chris Duchitanga and Madelyn Venuti watch during kindergarten class at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Elmsford Jan. 8.
Maria R. Bastone
The bridge begins to tumble when Dash veers a little off course.
Maria R. Bastone
The students and their teacher react to the fallen bridge.
Maria R. Bastone
By DAN PIETRAFESA
Joseph Sanese-Cavone shared the enthusiasm of his kindergarten classmates when Dash took the floor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Elmsford.
“Dash is so much fun, I can’t stop playing with it,” the 5-year-old told CNY.
Dash is Wonder Workshop’s small blue robot that helps children explore the STEM principles of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Operated from a tablet or smartphone by a student or teacher, the robot can do many things such as move on wheels, change the color of its lights, dance, talk and make sounds like a siren or a student’s recorded voice.
Mount Carmel kindergarteners worked in groups one day to build an obstacle course for Dash to complete using Dash’s Go App, and programmed Dash with the Blockly App to launch a small ball toward a basket at the end of a basketball court on the floor.
After the students completed their rotations, kindergarten teacher Danielle Cavone gathered the students in a circle to watch Dash play a small xylophone using the Xylo App.
“It certainly lets them think outside the box and lets me direct the questioning to them to think outside the box,” said Ms. Cavone, a kindergarten teacher at the school for 21 years. “They have to use their problem-solving skills in figuring out how many more paces does Dash need to get where I need him to be, and what does that entail. You put it into the iPad, it gets transformed to Dash, and they get to see their thought process come to life with the robot.
“The enthusiasm, focus and drive it puts in them to do different things are great. Watching them work together is one of the greatest things to come out of it. They must work together for a common goal. That’s a part of life...It’s an important skill to learn.”
Julian Achar-Rodriguez said he’s enjoying the class time with Dash, especially watching the robot play the xylophone. “When he plays it, it’s like he’s playing the piano,” Julian said. “I play a keyboard and it’s similar to the keyboard. When he plays xylophone, it helps me learn how to play the keyboard.”
Madelyn Venuti mastered getting Dash through the obstacle course because she “was able to get (Dash) to go straight,” but later said basketball is her favorite activity with Dash. “You have to shoot the ball into the net,” she said.
Wonder Workshop has two other robots in this program. Dot looks like Dash, but is smaller and has no wheels. Dot and Dash both offer a learn-to-code curriculum for kindergarteners through fifth-graders. Cue, which looks similar to Dash, has a robotics curriculum for students in grades six to eight.
Wonder Workshop robots are being used by more than 10,000 elementary schools worldwide. T.J. McCormack, director of communications and public relations for the Office of the Superintendent of Schools, said the program is being rolled out to about 40 schools in the archdiocese. About half of the schools now have their robots, and the others will receive their robots in the next eight weeks.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a school with 175 students in pre-K3 through eighth grade, has Dot for kindergarten students, but students have not used that robot yet. Sister Mary Stephen Healey, R.D.C, has just ordered Cue and a second Dash for the school.
“It’s not just Dash,” said Sister Mary Stephen, who has served as principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel for 52 years. “That just happens to be one of the wonderful things we have here at school. Every class is involved with STEM in one way or another.
“It’s a thinking process, and the focusing that comes from it because they’re involved in it, but the greatest asset for me is the critical thinking and being independent thinkers. The educational value is very prominent.”