Nauset students build robots

Thirteen-year-olds at Nauset Regional Middle School’s summer science and technology institute study pond science
Screenshot from Jeremy Spevack's video.

Kids learn programming, robotics, science and video production

A robot glides through the water, examining underwater plant life, navigating around obstacles and recording video as it explores. No, this isn’t the latest expedition by Woods Hole marine scientists. This robot was built, programmed and operated by thirteen-year-olds at Nauset Regional Middle School’s summer science and technology institute.

New confidence in their abilities

Last spring Nauset Middle School principal Dr. Maxine Minkoff told Cape Cod Today that “students will leave with new confidence in their abilities to effect change and motivation to continue increasing the technology and science skills.” Participants will have created environmental awareness games, robots capable of collecting water samples, spreadsheets to analyze their data, video public service announcements and a brief documentary video. Students will take home their Lego robots to share with others and inspire them to participate in future programs.

The Orleans Pond Coalition will feature students from the program in their Water Festival this fall. Students will receive Certificates of Completion from the Institute, recognition by the Nauset Regional School Committee and the opportunity to share what they learned with their classmates during the school year.

Video chronicle

The entire summer program was documented by student and faculty videographers. This footage was used to produce four videos (see the links below), including public service announcements about water quality and a promotional video for next year’s program. The three teachers who created and ran the program were Brandy Jackson, computer teacher, Gregg Barr, Science teacher, and John Simms, Adventure Education teacher.

In Week 1 students spent two days studying object-oriented programming and designing a game that demonstrates how Cape Cod’s ground water is impacted by various pollutants. As a way to introduce how engineering affects coding, students spent the next two days building robots using the Lego Mindstorm robotics kit. Learners programmed the robots to complete simple tasks.

The second week had the students building underwater robots and using them to take samples of local water sources. Using mounted, waterproof cameras, the students programmed the robots to capture footage of the local area around the water source.

Video production was the focus of the final week. Students created short Public Service Announcements on the importance of taking care of the environment, using footage gathered throughout the Institute. The videos below will be aired on local public access channels.

The kids keep their robots

Students will keep the robots they built during the Institute. Nauset Middle School plans to implement an after-school robotics club this year, with students developing more capabilities of the robots they built during the Institute.

Building on success

Yesterday, Dr. Minkoff told Cape Cod Today, “This is a wonderful start to what I hope will be a continuing, and growing, summer institute.”

A recent visitor to the Institute observed students receiving a science lesson on water quality from their teacher. He reported that the group of kids seemed “intense” and the feel of the class was more reminiscent of high school or college than middle school. Many observers noted that it is impressive to see how far charismatic teachers can take a group of bright, curious middle school kids.

Various videos show students in the process of building and testing their robots, both in the classroom and in a giant water tank outside the middle school. Students needed to verify their robots functioned properly, practice their skills in flying the robots and plan their scientific investigation of the pond.

Something for the whole community

The NRMS Summer Science and Technology institute was funded by student tuition and generous financial assistance from the Orleans Pond Coalition and the Masonic Angel Foundation, as well as other community supporters.

Virtually every adult who has visited the Institute or screened the student videos has said they wanted to take a course like this geared towards adults.

The Summer Science and Technology Institute was a “home run” for Nauset Regional Middle School and the students who participated. It promises to become a signature program for the Nauset schools as it evolves.


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