Salem Robotics: More than Fun and Games

In the early hours before school begins, these fourth-grade Soule school students are busy problem-solving. The "board" is laid out in the library and animals, obstacles and robots have been constructed from First Lego League kits. Students eagerly type commands into iPads that direct the robots to interact with the board pieces. Today they are trying to collect the "pink pig."

"In a competition, students get points by how well their robot interacts with various elements on the board," says Anna Caron, one of several Salem teachers volunteering time to guide the elementary Lego Robotics Clubs. "We're just getting started. Today's challenge is to collect the pink pig without crashing into other objects."

Soule fourth-grade students react as their robot just misses collecting the "pink pig."

The students take turns determining a course of action, programming the robots, then running the controls. After collaborating on alterations, they share in the celebration of successes and the angst of near misses.

Over at Lancaster, students are working on the same issues, but one of their robots is not responding. Is it a Bluetooth issue?

Lancaster Lego Club Advisor Kristin Moser helps students work out robot connectivity issues.

They try powering down and rebooting -- troubleshooting 101, right? It's all part of the learning process.

At the high school, the robotics team is dealing with a bigger robot, and well, bigger issues. After making it to the quarter finals in last year's competition and being awarded the rookie all-star award, the Salem Robotics team is back to the drawing board, working out wiring issues. In addition to learning about building and programming the robot, team members are also on the phone soliciting sponsors for the program and upcoming competitions.

Salem High School students working out electrical problems on their robot.

Woodbury's Vex Robotics team is preparing to attend the NH/VT VEX IQ Challenge State Championships. The team earned the right to participate with a solid performance in a recent regional qualifier. At the state championships they'll team up with another school in a cooperative effort to score points by having their robot add or remove rings from various obstacles within a specified time period.

Woodbury students are working out final robot and strategy adjustments prior to the state competition.

Team coaches Joe Ferraro and Cody Booth assist the students as they problem-solve robot build and functionality issues. The club exposes the middle school students to STEM fundamentals as part of a hands-on process that encourages team work, problem-solving, and leadership development.

Just don't tell the students. They think they're just having fun.