On February 23, 2017 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., the school will host its First Annual Engineering Fair. Teacher-Librarian, Jane Rizika, took the lead on this monumental event. “It’s all about team building. About teaching students how to teach and how to share what they know.”
The focus of the fair is on engineering and the technology that can power it. During my visit to the school, I had a chance to sit down with a group of sixth graders who showed me what this means to them.
Armed with robots and I-Pads and smiles, the group took me through their projects. Andy has been working with some classmates on a small LEGO robot named Milo. Through the WeDo App on his I-Pad, Andy has learned basic coding techniques, allowing him to sequence a variety of commands which he then puts into action with a simple press of the play button. He was excited to teach me how to do it and helped me set the robot up to walk and stop to smell the flowers. The robot, equipped with a sensor to detect the little LEGO bouquet, followed each of the commands without error, even in my inexperienced hands.
The rest of the group gave me a tour of the features of their robots, Dash and Dot. Reed and Jake each worked the robots from a coding app on their I-Pads similar to the one Milo ran on. In addition to explaining how each of the app’s features powered the bots, the students made sure to show off Dash’s unique abilities, including a surprisingly flawless performance on the xylophone and an impressive trip across the table top hauling Dot, who was riding on a trailer the kids made from a piece of the robotics kit and some personal LEGO pieces. “It has taken a lot of work. I am in the library working almost every recess,” shared Reed. For another student, Thy, the journey of figuring out Dash and Dot’s endless possibilities left her with a sense of accomplishment.
Rizika emphasized her gratitude for the grants she was awarded that made all this possible. “I believe students need the opportunity to experience coding before they graduate. This is where the jobs are going to be.”
With the help of Justin McKaughan, one of Tumwater School District’s technology integration specialists, Rizika has extended this celebration of science and technology beyond the walls of her library and school. A few students from Bush Middle School and Tumwater High School, as well as members of the greater community, will also be showcased at the fair. The hope, Rizika said, is for students to see the evolution of their foundational skills through the work of the older students.
The fair supports the idea of community learning; that teachers, students, families and community members learn together, and we all have something to teach one another.
So, come and spend a couple of hours at East Olympia Elementary on February 23. Community members are welcome from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. On the program are catapults, coding games, robots, drones, gravity ramps, balsa airplanes and inertia towers, just to get you started. Even if you aren’t like 6th grader Jonavin, an aspiring rocket scientist, the students will eagerly teach you everything they know because, as Andy put it, “It’s fun!”