J.L. Jones robotics club to compete

Students at J.L. Jones Elementary School are preparing to compete in the third grade division in the Regional Autonomous Robotics Circuit, or RARC, in November.

Students Melodi Frazier, Copeland Cupples and Zane Maxwell plot coordinates to move a machine from "Zimbabwe" to "Antarctica" for repairs and back again. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald
Students Melodi Frazier, Copeland Cupples and Zane Maxwell plot coordinates to move a machine from “Zimbabwe” to “Antarctica” for repairs and back again. Michelle Bates/Press-Herald

The robotics club at Jones – the only elementary school in Webster Parish to have one – will compete in a regional competition at the Bossier Civic Center Saturday, Nov. 14.

Teacher Amanda Greer, robotics coach at the school, says the club puts to use their math and science skills in a fun way.

“We started with Lego We Do kits,” she said. “They’re simple machines, like wheel and axle machines.”

Now, they are up to Lego Mindstorm EV3s, which are machines the students can program to perform tasks, she said. For example, the student has to figure out coordinates for the machine to pick up a Lego man from “Zimbabwe” and take a machine to “Antarctica” for repairs and then back again.

The students use measurement, multiplication, division and science skills while developing teamwork skills. Principal Dusty Rowland says this club exposes the students to technology while learning other skills.

“Robotics is a great way to get kids excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics,” she said. “Studies show that it is highly effective in developing teamwork and self-confidence. One aspect of digital age learning that is essential to prepare students for the evolving 21st century workplace is collaboration.

“We know that there are many talented, intelligent children who, if given the opportunity and exposure, can master technology topics and become our future scientists, engineers and even inventors,” she continued. “I want my students at J.L. Jones to have that exposure and opportunity.”

The regional competition is a series of three competitions for students from grades three through 12. The competition, according to the NICERC website, is to allow students to showcase their STEM skills by competing against students in their divisions.

NICERC is a division of the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier Parish.

“The hands-on challenges serve a dual purpose: introduce STEM concepts and its many applications and reinforce STEM fundamentals learned in the classroom,” according to the site.

Greer says she’s not sure how the students will fare at the competition. This is their first year and they just began the club and preparation for the competition in September. The club meets on Fridays but have been meeting after school twice per week to prepare the students to compete.

“It’s a fun way to do math and science,” Greer said, adding only 24 slots were open this year. “I feel like next year, more kids will want in (the club).”

Greer started the robotics club after seeing some of the things other schools in neighboring parishes are doing, and she felt it would benefit the students at Jones.

“In Bossier Parish, I think almost all of their elementary schools have a robotics club, and all elementaries have some type of STEM,” she said. “I just felt like we needed that. My personal children love robotics, they love Legos, and I just want them to have the same opportunities as another parish would. I hear parents say their kids love robotics club. That makes it worth it.”

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