LAURINBURG — Student engineers from North Laurinburg Elementary School taught Scotland County Schools Board of Education members a few things about Lego Robotics during this week Committee of the Whole Meeting.
STEM facilitator Amber Hutchins along with two student engineers, Rebecca Kaba and Elwood McLean, introduced board members to Lego Robotics, an after-school program that teaches elementary and middle school children how to build and program robots using simple engineering and computer programming.
“The students we have today are going to be working in fields that don’t even exist at this point,” said Hutchins. “Our goal is to help our students think through the engineering process and think about all the skills that are going to make them successful in the future and giving them that opportunity at a very young age.”
School officials broke up into teams of three to try their hand at programming the Lego robots to move up a board, make two left turns and then go back down the other side of the board.
The Lego robots are connected to Chromebooks via Bluetooth, so the board members would key in the commands for the robot on the computer — with the help of the student engineers — press a button and the robot would carry out the actions. Correctly programming the robots to get from the start to the finish line proved to be more difficult than they had expected. After about 10 minutes none of the board members had gotten their robots across the finish line.
Each elementary school in the district has three Lego robot kits, Shaw Academy had one and Carver and Spring Hill middle schools have five. The difficulty of the programming and engineering depends on the children’s age level. Since the program is in it’s first year it’s just an after-school program.
“Students were asked to apply, some schools had a lot of students interested, others only had a few,” said Hutchins. “But the more students see these (robots) in action, the more energetic they get. The middle school students have to build a robot that can throw a football, so they are going to put an arm on it with a catapult with a larger motor and learn how to build a wide robot. They are being given challenges that push them beyond one little robot.”
The Lego robotics clubs will have a showcase at Sycamore Lane Elementary School on April 8.
The board then went into closed session for an hour and a half to discuss personal issues and school site selection. When the board returned there was no mention of what was discussed.
In other business, the board also discussed:
— Scotland County Schools has been selected, along with 13 other districts, to participate in the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child pilot. The pilot will use the information gathered from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, that will now be given to middle and high school students, to see what the needs are in the community.
— The board is considering adding two additional athletic programs at Scotland High School — swimming and bowling — and two athletic programs at the middle school level — track and wrestling. Jay Toland, chief finance officer provided the board with a rough estimate of almost $16,000 for all four sports. Toland said he would bring any change in that cost estimate and funding options to the board at the next meeting.
— An update was given on the K-3 class size allotment. Covington, Laurel Hill, Sycamore Lane and South Scotland will have their specialty classes on carts, to free up classrooms, if the smaller class size bill passes. The other schools are able to absorb the additional classrooms that will be required.
— A list of policy changes, updates were also provided to the board for review to be approved at the next school board meeting.
The board didn’t get to the final item on their agenda, an update on the school consolidation, and agreed to take a recess until 5:15 p.m. on Thursday when they will reconvene to conclude the meeting.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.