NASA is coming to Hillsboro Elementary to teach robotics

A NASA robotics team is coming to Hillsboro Elementary school on Tuesday March 24th. Erica Marks, a teacher of gifted classes in Pocahontas County explains.

“We have a bunch of teachers from across the county coming to a training that’s being offered through NASA’s educational resource center,” said Marks. “And they’re coming to teach us about Lego robotics; a program called “Robots and Ratios. And what that is, it’s STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics training; the students will be using robots to learn computer programming and they’ll be able to try out their programming on these Lego robots. And they can move around and follow their instructions if they got the language right.”

Marks said the NASA Educational Resource Center, based in Fairmont, West Virginia, has taken this training all across West Virginia, as well as Ohio and Pennsylvania to provide students with more access to STEM classes. She said there is a lot of interest in both the schools and non-profits in Pocahontas.

“They’re bringing everything, it’s a free training,” she said. “And it just seems like a really great deal, because if you get trained on this using their equipment, then you can use their kits. They’ll mail the kits to you and use them for the classroom – you have them for two weeks, if you’ve had this training, to use with your kids. And the kits are valued at something like $15,000.00 with the Lego sets and the lap tops and all the software that comes with them.”

And depending on how many teachers take the training, those kits could be in the county for quite a while, as each teacher will get two weeks with the kit before passing it on to another teacher in the same or at another county school. Marks said they need at least 10 people to hold the training and they have at least 14 and possibly as many as 20 willing to take the six hour course.

“People in High Rocks [Academy] are coming to the training; I know [teachers from] Marlinton Elementary, Marlinton Middle and Hillsboro Elementary is hosting and they have the most teachers going there,” she said.

“What’s the age range for these classes?”

“Primarily middle school,” said Marks. “But we have teachers in elementary school who are interested in it too. They have different entry levels I think. If this particular training is for the older kids, then I think there’s some other more basic kits that can be scaled down so that younger kids could start learning about it too.”

She said Green Bank Elementary Middle school went through this training last year, but this is the first time that schools in the southern end of the county will have this opportunity. She sees this training and curriculum extending beyond just math and science classes.

“It could be math, science; I’m teaching in the gifted program in the schools and that’s where I was interested in using it,” said Marks. “It really can cut across; it’s a real cross-curricular kind of thing because the students will be learning a language. You could fit it in wherever you want in your courses I think, so it would be really great to see science and math teachers collaborating on it.”

So what happens after the two weeks is up?

“Well I guess it could be springboard into other types of programming topics,” said Marks. “They have all kinds of different variations of these kits; you can work on solving environmental challenges or you can take it to look at agriculture. It just seems like they’re toys that you play with, but they can lead in so many different directions, so after we send the toys back, hopefully they can keep going on some of the ideas that came up.”

“You don’t necessarily need to have the robots to keep going with the programming, or we could have so much interest in this county – there are funding available to hopefully have kits come and live with us and get passed around, that would be ideal.”

The NASA robotics training takes place on Tuesday, March 24th at Hillsboro Elementary from 12:30 to 6:30pm.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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