September 22, 2017

5th-Graders Bring Robotics for All

5th-Graders Bring Robotics for All
The Ridge Elementary School Robotics Team poses for a photo with Del. Deb Rey after presenting its Mobile STEM Box project to government and industry representatives at the Maryland State House in March. Pictured are Jasemine Edison, left, Del. Rey, Grace Anderson, Connor Tomasic, Matthew Krawczyk, Luis Quinones, and Isaiah Wade.
(Photo Courtesy of The Patuxent Partnership)

What began as a research project by a group of Ridge Elementary School 5th-graders is now a countywide science, technology, engineering, and mathematics initiative making robotics available in all of St. Mary’s County’s 18 public elementary schools.

Starting this month, Mobile STEM Learning Boxes will provide schools with access to more than a dozen learning boxes, each containing enough robots to serve a classroom of 24 students. The boxes will be shared among the public elementary schools in the county.

The boxes were made possible through the contributions of the Ridge Elementary School Robotics Team, The Patuxent Partnership, and other community sponsors.

During a demonstration of Mobile STEM Learning Boxes, Ridge Elementary School Robotics Team members teach Mary Washington, St. Mary’s County Board of Education vice chairman, and Terri Stewart to use a Dash and Dot robot from the Mobile STEM Boxes, which will be available to all St. Mary’s County public elementary schools beginning in September. (Photo Courtesy of The Patuxent Partnership)

“The benefit of using robotics in the classroom goes well beyond the obvious skills of engineering and programming,” said Karl Neddenien, Maryland community relations manager for Dominion Energy, one of the project sponsors. “Skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication and team work are instrumental in the workforce. Robotics is the perfect way to teach all of these skills.”

The Mobile STEM Learning Boxes initiative was developed by the Ridge Elementary School robotics team as their research component for the 2017 VEX IQ Challenge.

The VEX IQ Challenge is presented annually by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation to provide elementary and middle school students with hands-on robotics and research challenges. Teams participate in regional, state, and global competitions.

The Ridge Elementary team’s work paid off in a big way: not only did they win the local and state VEX IQ championships, they also gained the attention of community leaders who saw potential in implementing the concept.

The team formally presented the idea to a number of industry partners and members of the Maryland General Assembly at the State House in Annapolis.

“We are very proud of these young engineers,” said Scott Stewart, Northrop Grumman’s Corporate Lead Executive for Naval Air Systems Command. “Robotics programs provide students with the hands-on experiences to build skills and confidence in the STEM areas most needed in government and industry. It is an investment in our county’s future.”

The Patuxent Partnership, a local non-profit dedicated to STEM education, workforce development, and technology transfer, assisted the students by managing the purchase and delivery process. The project’s community sponsors are all members of The Patuxent Partnership.

“’STEM for All’ is our educational goal. The fact that this program is a direct result of previous program investments makes the reward even greater,” commented The Patuxent Partnership Executive Director Bonnie Green. “Having fifth-grade students develop and implement such a creative initiative is evidence of the value of robotics in our schools.”

Teachers will work through their media specialist to borrow boxes containing various types of robots. Because the robots are so versatile, the same system can be used at any grade level – from kindergarten through fifth grade. The kits include tools and resources to help teachers incorporate robots into the curriculum.

Developing a program based on shared resources will allow every student access to technology at minimal cost, according to Roger Budd, business development manager at the Raytheon Patuxent River Field Office.

“Bringing this type of learning tool into our schools is exactly the right thing to do,” said Budd. “We are excited to see what these kids will do with these resources.”

Northrop Grumman Corporation, Raytheon, Dominion Energy, the Association of Old Crows Pax River Roost, and AVIAN LLC contributed over $16,500 in funding for robots and educational and training resources.

“Support from our community partners and corporate leaders drives our system forward and keeps STEM education at the center of our work,” said Scott Smith, Superintendent of Schools for St. Mary’s County. “Our future depends on how well we prepare the next generation, and our partners have invested in their promise. Without this support, STEM-for-All programs such as robotics, science fairs, Destination Imagination and many others would not be possible.”

About The Patuxent Partnership

TPP fosters collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and expertise across a diverse network that includes government, industry, and academia. The Partnership also supports STEM education and workforce development within the local community including hosting programs of interest to NAVAIR, NAWCAD, and the broader DoD community.

To learn more about The Patuxent Partnership and its programs, visit its Leader member page.

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