When funding is tight, schools have to get creative when they want to introduce new programs and adopt new technology. That’s what the Middle School at Parkside in Manchester, NH did when it wanted to develop a robotics team. “It’s basically up to us to figure out how to fund these types of initiatives,” said Pauline Soucy, Computer Science Educator.
With a history of successfully winning New Hampshire Department of Education (DOE) grants, Soucy became the first teacher in her district to take advantage of the department’s two-year robotics grant. Introduced in 2021 and focused on supporting STEM concepts and exploration among New Hampshire youth, the competitive grants are offered to public schools and public charter schools that want to establish robotics teams and participate in competitive events.
Soucy has used the grant program on three different occasions—past initiatives focused on physical robotics program, but pivoted to a virtual platform from CoderZ which is an innovative online learning environment where kids learn how to program real and virtual robots using a 3D robotics simulation. Given what was going on with hybrid learning, this new grant gave Soucy the opportunity to meet her new goal of creating an environment where students could build robots and compete remotely.
When she received a notification about the DOE grant for 2022, and when one of the ideas the department suggested was CoderZ, Soucy checked the platform online, saw what it was all about and said, “let’s go for it.”
Middle School at Parkside implemented CoderZ for the 2021-22 school year and started using the platform in mid-January. Soucy says the setup was easy and that about 120 students in grades 5-8 are currently using the robotics platform. She started using it four days a week but then scaled it down to three days a week once students understood the concept and how the platform worked.
Students also spend one day on the Amazon Cyber Robotics Challenge, with Fridays allocated to enrichment. Soucy likes how CoderZ provides a “get started” slide deck presentation that she can use with her students. She added her own content to the presentation, which breaks down each topic in a way that helps students understand key concepts and even make up for some of the learning loss that happened during the pandemic.
“We have students that basically had no education for two years due to their families’ decisions about attending school. Of course, they’re required to come to school, but some parents did not enforce it.” As a result, the school now has some sixth graders that don’t know how to multiply or divide. These youngsters were in fourth grade when the pandemic started and the school moved to remote learning.
“They missed fourth and fifth grade,” Soucy explained. “Because of that, I had to break things down in smaller chunks for comprehension.”
Soucy also likes the data that’s generated by and stored in the CoderZ platform. When it comes time to participate in an Amazon challenge, for example, she’s often running 60 different teams across all of her various classes. Using a whiteboard, she posted the current rankings for students to see. This created a bit of extra “friendly” competition among the teams.
“Everyone wanted to be in first place, and there were times that sixth grade made it to the top rankings of seventh and eighth grade,” said Soucy. “That got the students really enthusiastic about and engaged in the competition.”
Using CoderZ’s data, she can also see exactly who is working on which activity and the progress that they’re making on it. If a student is struggling, falling behind or not getting the concepts at all, she’ll sit down with him or her to provide additional support and intervention (once she knows that the rest of the class is successfully working toward their goals).
“In the fifth-grade classes sometimes I’ll pull groups together so I can work with one group because they’re at more random levels than the older kids are,” said Soucy. “They had to have one-on-one instruction or small groups while the other kids continued to move on and support the others.”
Overall, Middle School at Parkside’s students love the robotics platform and its gamified elements, which helps to keep them focused as they learn how to code and build robots.
“The sound effects make CoderZ very engaging,” said Soucy. “I allow the students to have their speakers on, which some teachers don’t allow. So even though my students yell to one another across the classroom, I know they’re engaged so I’m okay with that.”
Being one of the approved vendors for the program, CoderZ offers the perfect opportunity to empower all NH students, through our gamified coding platform and award-winning curriculum that combines STEM, computer science, and critical life skills in a way that makes learning feel like a game!
Apply for DOE Robotics grant to make sure your students too can enjoy learning programming and robotics the CoderZ way.
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