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LEARNING FROM THE MINDSTORM MASTER. UITS staffer Tony Brazzell (left) explains one of the finer points of robotics. Brazzell is a mentor/coach for local youth robotics clubs.

Robots: The ultimate learning machines

Curiosity is sparked when Research Technologies loaned LEGO Mindstorms to a local junior high school science teacher

“Get one with good claws!” shouted Steven Case across the room to a fellow student at Mitchell Junior High School.

He’s not talking about a wombat or Wolverine—Steven wants to make sure his partner chooses a robot with the right grippers for tasks they’re programming it to do in their seventh-grade science class.

Steven wants to be a mechanical engineer, like his dad. And he’s getting a head start in Amy Glassco’s classroom, thanks to eight LEGO Mindstorm robots on loan through a partnership between UITS Research Technologies, Lawrence County STEAM, and Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division. Research Technologies owns the robots as part of its annual Ready, Set, Robots! camps for teens, now in its 12th-straight year.

How, exactly, are robots helping middle-schoolers in Mitchell learn about science, you might be wondering? It all started last summer, when the Indiana Department of Education added new computer science standards that public school teachers would be required to follow. Glassco quickly realized that she didn’t have the training to teach this new material, so she started brainstorming ideas.

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