The gears are in motion for the newly launched robotics program at Oaks Christian School. Led by math teacher Christopher Wight, the introductory class started in 2016-17 is the first step in a future program that will reflect the increased interest in the Science, Math, Technology and Engineering (STEM) disciple that is one of the fastest growing areas in education.
The pilot class had 12 students and worked on various projects such as an automated robot that can follow simple instructions and a radio-controlled car. They were aided in their work by the acquisition last year of a 3D printer, the first for Oaks Christian.
Three years ago a robotics club was started on campus, setting the stage for the academic class which Wight says was driven by student interest. The club continues to meet after school.
“Part of our class objectives were for students to learn computer programming, how to use the printer, and get hands-on experience in problem solving and setting goals,” said Wight. “Toward this end, students picked what they want to work on. Typically, our seniors were more ambitious, designing an radio-controlled car that can glide or fly using the 3D printer to make parts that are lighter.”
Class of '17 senior William Sadowski attended a tech camp at Stanford University the previous summer so he was a natural choice to head up the design of the gliding car. The group used the 3D printer to produce a lighter chaise and a spoiler to give the car more lift while it is in the air, as well as printing out a brace to stabilize it. As a mechanical engineering major headed to Northwestern in September 2017, the robotics class was one of his favorite science courses.
“I really enjoy being in this class with my friends who are also interested in science. It’s all about collaboration with each of our teammates having a different role to figure out the best methods,” he said.
Looking forward, Oaks Christian School will offer a Robotics 2 class, and hopefully enter teams in competitions against other schools in the not too distant future. The students are excited for the new direction and last spring were already anticipating the new classes being planned.
With an interest in majoring in aerospace engineering, freshman Charlie Kempf is definitely going to take the next class. His group worked on a Lego Mind storm robot they were programming to follow basic instructions, such as how to follow a blue line. The biggest benefit he had from the class this year was learning Python, a widely-used programming language for general purpose programming.
“Robotics is this cool, upcoming field that has a lot of modern impact, so it’s great to share that interest with other people I go to school with,” he said.