The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 21, 2013

Robotics a fun, challenging new class at PV

For the Star Beacon

ANDOVER — Pymatuning Valley is excited to welcome several new science courses to the academic curriculum. A $100,000 grant over three years was given to the high school from an anonymous community member in order to further develop the science curriculum. Through the grant an Advanced Placement chemistry class, a Dual Credit Physics class in conjunction with Kent State University, and a robotics class were added. The grant also allowed the school to hire part-time science teacher Ricky Walters to teach Biology II.

Veteran science teacher, Annie Siembor, was honored to receive the chance to teach the new robotics class, and is excited to learn all about the Boe-Bots as the year progresses. There are 20 students involved in the class, and everyone is grouped into teams of two people. The robotics class involves students learning all about different types of electronics along with the various program languages used to make each team’s Boe-Bot function. The main science involved is physics through motion, and the technology involves an understanding of the breadboards (the Boe-Bot programmable brain) and the various electronics that make the bots work. The beginning of the school year was a bit rough as not all of the equipment had yet arrived, but is now progressing quickly and efficiently.

Siembor said she is grateful for the students’ patience with the development of a brand new course and is thankful for their hard work. The robotics course gives students familiarity with engineering and programming which therefore bestows them with more exposure for college.

Robotics student Adam Freeman opted to take the class because of a newfound interest in the subject matter. Freeman said he enjoyed having Siembor as a physical science teacher his freshman year and was looking forward to experience her teaching style once again. Fellow classmate Kayla Collins decided to join the class in order to learn how to program the Boe-Bots, and both students agree that the programming is their favorite part of the class.

The class has discovered that building and assembling the teams’ robots using their own programming is one of the most challenging parts. Each robot required multiple programs to be installed for even the most basic functions such as moving forward and backward. But they have progressed significantly, as one team, consisting of Trent Schovanec and Chad Lynagh, has recently added “whiskers” to the Boe-Bot in order for it to detect various objects. The Boe-Bots are also able to spin in circles, light up and beep. Unexpected challenges and malfunctions often arise. In one instance a group faced the challenge of their robot sparking and smoking a little. Despite the difficulties, the robotics class has maintained their optimistic morale and are having lots of fun.

Principal Dan Jackson is confident in the robotics class as a result of having a great teacher, students and curriculum. Jackson said in his past associations with Jefferson High School those participating in the robotics program were very successful in post-graduate engineering programs. He hopes that this will remain true for Pymatuning Valley’s version of the program.

“If students put in a lot of effort, they will get a lot out of it,” Jackson said.

Commending the best part of the class Siembor said, “I like that they get to be personally accountable for their progress and responsible for their own learning!”