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CMS students begin robotics studies

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

For many Clanton Middle School eighth-grade students, Josh Phillips’ robotics class is the first time they have been exposed to any Project Lead the Way engineering curriculum.

Many are enjoying the opportunity to design and create functioning robots.

“This is my first Project Lead the Way class, but I have always been interested in engineering,” Reign Aldridge said.

She has enjoyed creating designs for the robots and then building them.

Amari Crenshaw said drawing the designs have been challenging for him “because I don’t draw that good.” He said this is something he will be working on throughout the course. He said he is excited to “build more robots and learn about more technology.”

Designs will get more complex as the semester progresses.

For their first project, students worked with a partner to build a robotic car. Aldridge said it was challenging to design parts that would work together.

“I like how he has been letting us work together as partners,” Iean Narquez said.

He said this is helpful because sometimes the students can help each other and explain aspects that the other may not understand.

Parker McCullough said creating designs for the robot has been his favorite part so far.

Phillips said the class started by learning the design process that they will use for every project they complete in the class.

“We started out … discussing what is the design process and it leads to following that process for all of the projects,” Phillips said.

McCullough said the process involves coming up with an idea and making it work.

Students have also created presentations on the different uses for robotics.

Audrey Nick said she researched how robotics has impacted science and “how it can help improve the way we live.”

Narquez said he was a little nervous when he gave his presentation, but feels it is a good preparation for being in front of so many people at competition.

“What we are trying to do is teach them a little bit of everything, all the different types of robots,” Phillips said.

Student teams will build numerous robots, probably around 50 as a class, during the semester to hone their robot-designing and building skills.

Some of these students and robots will be taken to competitions. The students will compete as a part of Tiger Robotics with opportunities at the regional, state and national levels. Phillips said these competitions will be alongside the high school team.

“It’s a really big deal to be able to compete on tournaments and we are excited to have a chance to go to nationals,” Phillips said.

Philips said the invitation had been extended even before the team competed as “a chance for us to see what it’s all about.”

All of the eight-grade students, except those who are in band, will take the class. Phillips said he is working with students who are in band to provide some afterschool robotics opportunities.

“I try to get students that want to be involved. I’m going to give everyone the chance to build this stuff,” Phillips said.

Phillips said the class builds on what students, starting this year, are learning in sixth and seventh grade PTLW engineering classes.

Aldridge said she is looking forward to “going to nationals if we get to go.”

Even the desks are specially designed for the class. Two monitors in front of a drafting table allow students to design, program and read instructions all in the same space.