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Fifth-Graders Compete in Block-Stacking Bot Battle

 students at table in robotic battleEvery movement counts in this robotic battle as the timer ticks down. Fifth-grade students navigated their robots around obstacles to stack plastic blocks before the clock ran out.

"It's definitely harder than it looks," said Nathan after the first round. "I wanted to go in the middle and use the robot's arm to pick up the whole shelf to shake off all the blocks at once, but the arms aren't strong enough."

Each student takes a different approach to the competition. Juliana planned to earn the easier points before attempting to stack the teetering blocks. Dylan planned to repeat his first-round successes but to go even faster.

These robot engineers are part of Pequenakonck Elementary School's optional Genius Hour program run by enrichment specialist Dr. Michelle Sands and library media specialist Natalie Koehler.

"I always sign up for Genius Hour just to try it," added fifth-grader Nathan. "The robots are my favorite project this year."

"We have recess for our whole lives, so we might as well try something new," said fifth-grader Juliana, about her eagerness to join the lunchtime group. "It's enjoyable because we work in small groups, which also makes it harder because we have to put more effort in to get it all done."

The first day of the robotics unit was learning to write programming code to control the VEX IQ robot. Then, on the second day, they focused on programming automation to pick up and move a plastic block using the robot's claw. Then a few students opted into an additional four-session 'boot camp' for greater robotics exploration.

So far, during the boot camp, the students have learned to use the handheld controllers and designed the competition layout and rules. After the competition, they will add sensors to the robots and program more automation to complete new challenges

"Every student has the opportunity to participate in Genius Hour," said Sands. "The students who are competing today continue to dig into deeper levels of content and go into greater depth."