How students can run robotics missions remotely

Compton USD students studying Latin American programmed robots remotely for missions on a giant classroom map
By: | July 24, 2020
Remote students in a Compton USD middle school sent robots on educational mission on the room-size map of Latin America at Bunche Middle School.Remote students in a Compton USD middle school sent robots on educational mission on the room-size map of Latin America at Bunche Middle School.

Robotics has become a popular hands-on STEM project in many schools, but educators in Compton USD this summer figured out how to let online students send their robots on adventures back in the classroom.

A pair of summer school educators, Jose Gonzalez and Darleen Perez, covered the floor of a classroom with a huge map of Latin America.

Students, all of whom connected remotely via Zoom, had to research and answer questions about Latin American current events, history, art and geography, and then program their robot to embark on a mission from one country to another.

For example, students tracking COVID throughout the region would have to crunch the numbers and coordinates to program their robot’s journey from  Argentina to Central America to Cuba, says Gonzalez, the director of 21st century learning at Bunche Middle School in the Southern California district.

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Cameras mounted on the robot and through the room allowed students to watch the mission take place. “We wanted to design projects they could do at home in the digital format that integrated technology and 21st learning skills,” Gonzalez says.

Gonzalez and Perez, who participated in PBLWorks training, choose Latin America to make the project more relevant to the school’s Hispanic students.

They also bet that interactive robotics would engage students who hadn’t been as captivated by the more traditional style of instruction employed when schools shifted to online learning in the spring.

“We found that if we gave students opportunities to interact with each other and to create something engaging, we would keep them in the program and willing to learn,” Gonzalez says. 

Navigating the map required students to use the points of the compass and convert inches into degrees to ensure their robots reached the correct destinations.

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Students also got to choose to complete one of the following research-based tech projects:

  • Make e a TikTok video to describe a Latin American dance style
  • Create stop-motion video about aa Latin American artist or art form
  • Produce an iMovie trailer about an activist or politician.
  • Create an app, quiz or game related to COVID in the Keynote app.
  • Use Book Creator to write an ebook on an indigenous population.

The summer classes were sponsored by the University of California, Irvine’s Gear Up program.

“Students participated more than they had during the first round of COVID online learning,” Perez says. “They didn’t realize how much they were learning or how much math went into it.”

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