SBCO supports robotics program at Coronado K-8 school

Nancy Moore

SaddleBrooke Community Outreach (SBCO) supports the robotics classes offered at the Coronado K-8 School in Catalina. For several years teacher Lauren Marlatt has led an elective class titled “Engineering and Robotics.” The class offered to students in grades 6 and 7 involves programming Lego NXT and VEX robots (purchased from a division of Carnegie Mellon University). For the past two years, SaddleBrooke volunteer Robert Springer has taught the students how to program their robots.

Students in grades 6 and 7 use robots made of plastic that snap together. Motors move the robot, raise its arm and open its claws. The robot also can determine the color and distance to an object in front of it. A graphics-based code is used to program this type of robot. The 8th graders use a more powerful metal robot driven by more sophisticated, text-based code.

In 2017, Ms. Marlatt established a new class involving underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). Instead of coding or programming a robot, students used mechanical engineering skills to design, plan and build an underwater ROV that can accomplish a task. Six teams of students learned how to solder electrical circuit boards, cut PVC and splice wires to build a robot from scratch. Each team created a “company” to meet the robot construction challenge and to market the resulting product. In May 2018 the students competed with several other schools at a scrimmage held at the University of Arizona. The teams presented their robots to the judges and demonstrated their product’s capabilities. One Coronado K-8 all-girl team won first place in the competition. For this class, SBCO provided a $3,200 grant to support the purchase of Pufferfish underwater robotics kits, needed tools and a practice swimming pool.

In 2018, an SBCO grant of $2,700 funded the supplies needed for the school’s new “Elementary Robotics” program. This initiative was designed to provide students in grades 1 and 2 with robotic instruction using Dot and Dash robots. The students learned how to design solutions to challenges involving the robots.

SBCO is proud to support these innovative educational programs that help students prepare for a world involving technological challenges and solutions.