Each spring, sixth grade students learn about the water cycle and the global challenges that exist for many trying to access clean water. Students read “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park which follows the story of Nya and Salva as they deal with these challenges and more. Science teacher Stacy Hill says the story makes an impression on Episcopal students with many of them asking insightful questions like “Why can’t we just send them water?”.
To incorporate a hands-on science experience within the lesson, Hill traditionally tasks students with developing a water filtration system. However, with current pandemic protocols impacting science lab practices, the lesson had to be adjusted. Hill turned to technology and the expanded space available in the QUEST Center in Foster Hall.
The assignment: Program a Sphero robot to carry 50 milliliters of water to a "pond" and back
Before students began delivering water, they learned more about programming the little bots. Hill says for the most part the tech-savvy sixth graders had no problem directing the robot to successfully perform the commands. Once the programming capabilities were established, students spent several class periods designing a device to move the water. Each team received the same materials to bring their idea to life. What resulted was a collection of robots with widely differing features.
On water delivery day, Hill taped multiple obstacle courses on the Great Hall floor and used a tarp to create the pond. Through trial and error, students made adjustments until the robots made it to the goal without dropping the precious cargo. Along the way, students cheered on their robots with many students naming their creations. As robots Josh and Billy Bob zipped across the course, the young programmers were focused and engaged, proving that the new twist was a great addition.