Piedmont to offer robotics program for elementary students
by Laura Gaddy
Jan 13, 2014 | 2762 views |  0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PIEDMONT — The Piedmont Board of Education on Monday approved an after-school robotics program for elementary school students.

The program will be offered twice a week to a small number of fourth- and fifth-grade students who participate in the Piedmont Academy, an after-school program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

"It will be a good opportunity for us to see how it goes with fourth and fifth grades," said Superintendent Matt Akin. "Hopefully, if we have a large demand, we'll be able to expand it."

The program will begin with between eight and 10 Lego Mindstorm kits, a basic robotic construction package produced by the popular toy manufacturer. Two students can use each $250 kit, which combines Lego blocks, simple computer programing software, motors and sensors to help students build basic robots.

School systems across the county have begun similar programs, and Piedmont schools already offer robotics courses to middle and high school students. Akin said expanding the robotics program to include the lower grade levels will make it easier for students to learn to program the machines, and that it will draw more students into the math and science fields.

"The sooner you can relate math and science skills to real-world, hands-on activities the better," Akin said.

Students are drawn to robotics because it is fun, Akin said, but robotics courses have serious applications. They prepare students to work in in auto manufacturing plants and hospitals, which are both becoming increasingly dependent on the machines, he said.

The new kits are being paid for with money set aside for the Piedmont Academy, which receives about 95 percent of its funding from a federal grant, Akin said. The remaining funding for the academy is supplied by students' families, who pay income-based tuition to participate in the after-school program.

In other business, the board:

- Hired Jason Wright as a substitute art teacher for the remainder of the year. The full-time art teacher is away on a leave of absence.

- Slightly amended its equal opportunity employment policy, grievance reporting procedures and its English proficiency and cooperative education policies.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.

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