Donor Gifts Bring Robotics to EMES

February 3, 2020 / Andrea Wenger
Photo by Bethany Gibbs of her fourth grade classroom as they first unpacked their Sphero Bolts, winter 2020
Photo by Bethany Gibbs of her fourth grade classroom as they first unpacked their Sphero Bolts, winter 2020

Spheres with blinking lights… what fourth grader could resist this ball of creativity and learning? Thanks to generous donors, there are plenty of Sphero Bolts to go around at Eastern Mennonite Elementary School.

The small robots allow children to channel their ideas into reality, creating private games, secret codes and their own robotic equations.

Donors at this past fall’s Harvest Celebration auction highlighted growing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics), or STEM, opportunities at EMS, and Kevin Carini‘s vision for dedicated space and programming. Carini is the chemistry, physics and robotics teacher behind much of EMS’ STEAM programming.

Supporters were invited to raise their paddles high to help increase offerings K-12, and they raised over $11,000. The Sphere BOLTs were purchased with some of the proceeds, explains Bethany Gibbs, fourth grade teacher. “We are so excited to get our hands on this technology, and grateful for people who have made it possible!”

The robots are the first installment toward creating a K-5 “Creative Space,” a dedicated center where students can meet, exchange ideas, and access current technology.

Upper grade, robotics classes are using 3D printers and laser cutters to create EMS branded merchandise to sell. A GE grant last summer provided equipment for the upper grades.

Long-term, the plan is for students K-5 in their “Creator Space” and students grades 6 to 12 in their “Makerspace” to exchange ideas and use wood-working tools, electronic components, metal-working tools, 3D printers, soldering irons, paints, and CNC (computer numerical control) equipment.

So far, Kevin Carini has established Robotics I & II classes, built partnerships with engineering labs at James Madison and Eastern Mennonite University, launched a robotics chapter competition with area schools, begun a Python programming class, and cleaned out a corner of the school’s shop area for a collaborative hands-on work space.

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