Norridge robotics class teaches teamwork
Leigh School 7th grader Jessica Opalka (left) and 8th grader Alison Crivlare work on their robotics project. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:09AM
NORRIDGE — Learning math and science can be fun.
Students in a new robotics class at Norridge School District 80 are staying after school — because they want to, said Brandy Ross, a math teacher at Leigh School.
Giles School also offers the class to its middle school students.
The nine-week class is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education program the district has implemented this year, said Superintendent Kerry Leiby.
The students merge science, technology, engineering and math into a single purpose: to create robots that move by sound command. The project has so engaged their curiosity that many stay after school to work on their robots.
Technology Director John Jobe said the robotics program is part of the district’s efforts to introduce students to the STEM curriculum now being taught at Ridgewood High School, where many of the district’s graduates will continue their education.
The Norridge District students develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills -- and by working in twos to build their robots from a kit, they also learn how to be part of a team.
Jackie Ludston and Joey Ghuneim explained the computer shows the steps needed to create the various components of the robot that allow it to move forward and turn.
Jessica Opalka and Alison Crivlare so far have progressed the farthest.
They said working together — with one reading the computer program instructions and the other doing the building, using Legos and other parts — is paramount to success.
“You have to be able to get along,” Crivlare said.
Opalka echoed that statement, noting the similarity between building the robot and building a friendship.
“And I never knew Legos were programmable,” she added with a laugh.
The program builds in mistakes, and students have to solve the problems, Ross noted.
“It’s a very challenging program,” she explained. “As a math teacher, this is very exciting.”
The class starts right after lunch, and “the kids line up early and don’t want to leave,” she said.
The class is student-led, and participants work at their own pace.
“I’m here to lend support and guidance,” Ross said.
“These are the types of skills students will need, whether they go on to college or into vocational training,” Jobe added. “These are the skills they will need to find jobs.
“And what’s really great,” he noted, “is that the kids are into this.”