Columbia students to learn with robot technology
Students at Smithton Middle School will soon be learning with new technology.
The Columbia Public Schools Foundation presented the district with a check for $69,501 for four grants Wednesday at a ribbon cutting ceremony at Battle High School. $21,500 of that will go toward the cost of a NAO robot for students at Smithton.
Craig Adams is the practical arts coordinator for Columbia Public Schools. He helped write the grant for the robot.
Adams says he was interested in the robot after attending a conference in St. Louis two years ago. He says the robot can do just about anything.
“One of the reasons we wanted to get one of these is to try it out in fine arts so the kids could practice choreography,” Adams said.
Along with dancing, the robot also has facial recognition, Bluetooth to connect with other robots, internal protection software, and it can do Tai chi, which it demonstrated at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The robot will also be used in Smithton’s Intro to Computer Science class where students will have the opportunity to program what the robot does.
For Adams, though, that wasn’t even the most appealing part of the robot.
‘The software is written expressly for creating programs for kids to use with children on the autistic spectrum,” Adams said.
Adams said the robot is more of a service learning-type project for kids rather than a cool toy.
Sally Silvers is the secretary and one of the founders of the Columbia Public Schools Foundation. She played a role in choosing which programs to award grants to.
Silvers said the robot was a project that really sparked her interest.
“First of all, we saw a video of the robot interacting with kids, and he was so human, and the video we saw was special needs children,” Silvers said. “And when you could see how this, the children and the robot related to each other and it’s cutting edge. “
Adams has applied for grants before and said they have all changed the teaching environment dramatically. This grant, he said, will be no different.
“I’m totally anticipating this being another game changer for our computer and business classes.”
In the future, Adams said he hopes to buy two more robots for other middle schools in the district. His plan is to have one robot for West and Smithton middle schools, one for Jefferson and Gentry middle schools and one for Lange and Oakland middle schools.
“Our plan is really to have one robot per pathway,” Adams said. “We have three high schools, so we want to have three robots.”
Silvers said she’s excited to see what the students can create with the new technology.
“We’re just thrilled to be part of this ground breaking event with them and the robot.”
Adams said the students at Smithton are already excited about the robot. They have already named it GLaDOS after a robot in a video game called Portal.
CPSF also awarded grant money to the district’s mobile libraries, fit for life and the "iRead to Succeed program."
Nick Kremer, a Columbia Public School director applied for the iRead to Succeed grant. He says that the new program will enhance the productivity of reading classes in middle schools throughout the district.
“In a middle school reading course you may have kids reading as low as like a third grade reading level or as high as an above level. So this lets you meet the needs of all kids simultaneously without having to make 18 different copies.”
This is the 18th year CPSF has given grants to Columbia Public Schools.