ESUMs Visit: Robotics Class

On Thursday we went back to The engineering science university magnet school. The last time we went there was to talk to the digital media class, this time we went to talk to the robotics class. The kids were really enthusiastic when we talked to them, they asked questions, and participated in the conversation.

We talked mostly about their interests and what they enjoyed doing in their spare time. Their interests were very diverse, one person liked playing music, others liked fixing computers, soccer, baseball and some enjoyed just hanging out with friends.

A few things stood out to me on a personal level. First, was the way that this class was organized. Rather that coming in and huddling in the corner to work, they had business meetings! As soon as they walked in, the teacher said "OK guys get in your groups and have a quick business meeting and figure out what needs to be done today." So when they got in their groups, they had their meeting and began working on their projects. No one was wasting time figuring out what to do, because they had planned ahead. It was like a simulated work environment. Another cool thing they were doing was building robots.  The student groups had each designed and built a mine-sweeping robot that had to go through a set course and pick up balls (simulated mines). This reminded me of my experience in fourth grade when I went to Talcott Mountain Science Center, for a Saturday robotics class. Our team built a robot to put out a candle in a maze for a competition at Trinity college.  Lastly I found it cool how each group was managing their own blog (for example see here).  They had done a great job driving interest in what they were doing and they even had followers form China.

I was impressed that while we were talking to students one on one, the ones sitting near computers were signing up for MeritBooster accounts. In fact one of the students even submitted a project proposal before we left! Another team after getting their user accounts singed up, blogged about the fact that they were going to use MeritBooster to raise funds. These guys really don't waste time!    
After meeting with the kids, the principal wanted to meet with us. This was actually my first meeting with an administrator about MeritBooster, and I was happy that we were getting this opportunity. In the meeting the principal mentioned that writing a MeirtBooster project page would help students practice persuasive writing which is part of their educational standards.  Doing a MeritBooster project has the added benefit that the kids get a chance to rally support and funding for their projects. Raising funds on MeritBooster is a practical exercise in social media marketing, someting all students could benefit from.

All in all, meeting with the ESUMS robotics class and the school's principal was a great way to start the day.

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