MATTAPOISETT – On the morning of Nov. 1, Sixth graders at Old Hammondtown Elementary left their desks and notebooks behind and went to go play with robots.
They participated in a junior robotics course, led by high school students from the robotics class at Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School.
The students there organized different technology workshops for the sixth graders, which included lessons on video games, measuring sound waves, and a robotics obstacle course.
“This is a good way for us to energize the students, teach them about technology, and present them with what their future education could be,” said Dan Brush, Electronics Engineering Instructor at Old Colony.
Brush described the robotics program at Old Colony as “robust,” adding that it sees students go to work at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and join programs at Wentworth and The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
In addition to the robotics class, the school also has a club, where students can “letter” in robotics “just like they would in any other sport, like football or track.”
“It looks great on your CV,” Brush said.
Brush organized this program in conjunction with Lisa Lourenco, a sixth grade teacher at Old Hammondtown. They put on the program two years prior to the pandemic, and this is the first year they’ve been able to bring it back since 2019.
“Our kids are just beside themselves,” Lourenco said of the sixth graders. “They are so pumped to see this stuff.”
Sixth graders filed into the gym that morning, quickly gathering around a video game controller that was programmed by Old Colony students Mason Ventura and Ben Demers.
Ventura and Demers demonstrated to the sixth graders on how they could emulate old video games, such as ones made for the Atari or the Nintendo Entertainment System.
“It can’t really handle anything that was made newer than the PlayStation 2,” Ventura said.
He said that most of what they do every day is “trial and error” and it’s “90% error.”
For example, he explained, the entire system broke a few days ago, and they had to delete everything and start the program over from scratch.
“It’s how you learn,” Ventura added.
After the demonstration, the kids took turns playing Donkey Kong.
Cole Ashley, a sophomore robotics student, showed off a robot that he programmed that basically functions like a remote control car.
“It’s built for speed,” he said, showing off the block chain programming on his computer.
“We’ll have the kids pick up a ball with this robot,” he said, pointing out a robot with a giant claw attached. Then, the kids would get to go through an obstacle course to bring it back.
Ashley said that the robotics students at Old Colony also compete in what’s called the Spin Up Challenge, where there are different challenges and the kids can win trophies.
“We’ve won three so far,” he said.
Ashley says that he plans to letter in robotics when he’s a senior.
“I love being here with my friends and working on the robots together. Overall, it’s just really fun,” he said.
After the activities, all of the sixth graders received certificates for participating in the “junior robotics academy.” The certificates were designed and printed by Old Colony students in the graphics program.
“[Old Colony students] do as much hands-on stuff as possible,” said Brush.
After the demonstration, Lorenco asked her students for feedback on the program.
“I asked them if they enjoyed it, and it was a decisive yes,” she said.