Robotics Program Growth Continues Strong

September 8, 2021 / Andrea Wenger

In his fifth year at EMS, Kevin Carini is now teaching capacity classrooms in Robotics I – IV. The robust program is what he envisioned when he was hired in 2017 to teach physics and chemistry. The classes are offered in the MakerSpace classrooms that alumni will remember as the “tech ed” room, and “shop.”

In his first year, Carini offered a robotics club to a small but passionate group of upper level high school boys. By year two, a handful of students had signed up for Robotics I class. Interest has grown steadily since then, with classrooms at capacity with boys and girls equally present.

The energy has also spread to middle school and elementary levels where Carini has helped facilitate grants for supplies and introductory materials. (Read how donor gifts supplied the fourth grade classroom with Sphero Bolts).  Interest is high at the lower levels, especially when older students join classes to share what they are learning. The fourth and fifth grade classes, for example, are scheduled to spend a class period each week with Robotics II and III students to learn how to design, build, and program Lego robots.

An acquisition of supplies gave another boost to the program recently. Over the summer, Carini reached out to Charlottesville City Schools to see if EMS might make use of any Lego robotic kits they would be replacing. To his delight and the students’ benefit, the school system donated dozens of kits which Carini and students are now assessing. There are more than enough kits available for each student to work with a full kit, reports Carini. The total donation is valued at approximately $20,000, he estimates.

“Yes,” Carini admits with his characteristic grin. “It’s all pretty satisfying.”

Going forward, Carini’s vision joins with the EMS mathematics department to offer ever increasing opportunities for computer programming classes. Currently, Jesse Blosser,  algebra and calculus instructor, offers  Programming I, II and III.

In Programming I, students learn the basics of Python and programming, says Blosser. In Programming II, students go deeper into Python and Game Design, and by Programming III they expand into other languages like Java, Javascript, HTML, and C#.

“There is a big emphasis on project-oriented programming,” explains Blosser. “We give students freedom to explore areas of interest and design their own projects to work on while they learn Python, Javascript, and Java coding languages.”

Blosser and Carini are currently working on creating a computer science department for the high school, with classes available in the near future.

“Our ultimate goal,” said Patsy Seitz, director of academics, “is to develop a computer science department that would allow for all students to take at least one computer science course. The range of options would not only provide choice but foster an understanding of the many ways computer science impacts our daily lives.”

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