Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Concordia Parish Academy of Math, Science and Technology sixth-graders Chesney Seals and Cloi Cummings work to install the cables to their robot.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Concordia Parish Academy of Math, Science and Technology sixth-graders Chesney Seals and Cloi Cummings work to install the cables to their robot.

Viewfinder: Robots teach problem solving to students

Published 12:01am Tuesday, November 19, 2013

VIDALIA — Kobe Dillon never knew making mistakes could be so much fun.

BEN HILLYER / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT —  The students use an instruction booklet to show how to put the pieces together.
BEN HILLYER / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT —
The students use an instruction booklet to show how to put the pieces together.

The sixth-grader at the Concordia Parish Academy of Math, Science and Technology was making mistakes Monday, but in the process making a robot.

Ten small robots were being built Monday afternoon as part of the school’s enrichment period, which allows students to learn about subjects they would not ordinarily learn in a standard classroom.

Dillon and his robotics partner Milt Neal spent more than half their class period trying to figure out why the pieces of their robot were not coming together. But instead of frustration, Dillon and Neal showed determination.

That is what makes the class a great learning tool, teacher Brandon Rowe said.

“It’s a hands-on approach and best of all, it requires students to think,” Rowe said. “It requires them to problem solve.”

The robots are part of a kit, manufactured by the same company that makes Legos. Students start with various shaped pieces, motors, wheels, sensors and a small computer and learn how to put it together. Then students program the robot to move, sense and maneuver around obstacles.

For two days the class has been putting the tiny pieces together, getting them ready to program.

Putting the pieces together has been no easy task. For many, one small mistake meant tearing apart the robot and starting over.

BEN HILLYER / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT —  Darren Zeng, center, helps Milt Neal, right, and Kobe Dillon figure out which piece was installed incorrectly on their robot.
BEN HILLYER / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT —
Darren Zeng, center, helps Milt Neal, right, and Kobe Dillon figure out which piece was installed incorrectly on their robot.

“You make mistakes,” Neal said as he tried to understand why some of his pieces would not fit.

With a little help from another classmate, Neal and Dillon discovered where they went wrong.

“With the curriculum today, it is hard to find time to help and guide students in problem solving. That is what this does,” Rowe said. “It is usually hard to have every student engaged 100 percent of the time.

“With the robots, they seem to be fully engaged the whole time.”