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News > Robot expo at STARBASE brings learning to life
Robot expo at STARBASE brings learning to life

Posted 4/23/2012   Updated 4/23/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs


4/23/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Education goes beyond books to help 21st-century students develop technology skills. Military children from Alabama and Georgia gained hands-on experience during the third annual Georgia-Alabama Robot Expo held at Maxwell's STARBASE facility April 12.

"Robotics are a fun and valuable teaching tool accessible to us in the Georgia-Alabama district," said Rebecca Hill, the gifted education teacher at Maxwell Elementary Middle School. "Robotics is an excellent vehicle for teaching key concepts while also emphasizing 21st-century skills like critical thinking, teamwork, innovation and communication."

The classes divided into groups to accomplish three tasks: program a robot to navigate the surface of Mars, explore robot-to-human communication by giving a robot a personality and construct a contraption to protect an egg dropped from the top of a staircase.

This was a unique experience for both the STARBASE program and the Department of Defense Education Agency Schools, combining two ongoing programs.

The DoDEA students from Maxwell Elementary Middle School, Fort Benning's White and Stowers Elementary Schools in Georgia and Fort Rucker Elementary School participate annually in the First Lego League Challenge. The STARBASE facility provided technology to further explore robotics in a tactile environment.

Maxwell's STARBASE collaborates with the base school and public schools in the River Region to provide hands-on education opportunities in STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The STARBASE program began in Michigan in 1993. Today there are 76 STARBASE programs offered around the country through the Department of Defense.

The program came to Maxwell in 2004, but has been on hiatus since November 2010 due to construction.

Executive director Chip Haughton anticipates 1,500 students will attend during the 2012-2013 school year after the program relaunches in August.

"This is truly a 21st-century classroom," he said. The program aims to inspire students to develop an interest in science, math and technology, exposing them to a variety of career possibilities.

The facility has seven classrooms, each equipped to help students explore math and science concepts such as human cells, chromatography, solubility, gas composition of the atmosphere and vortex properties.

Fifth-graders attend five five-hour blocks. The curriculum is at a ninth-grade level but meets fifth-grade national standards. "It's addressing the STEM needs in America's schools," Haughton said.

Students learn for themselves through trial and error, taking education beyond the pages of a book. They are challenged to develop theories, make critical decisions and discover the results in real-world scenarios.

"For example, the flight simulator teaches them to read instruments. Instruments are measurements and measurement is math," Haughton said.

Students attending Maxwell's STARBASE program have demonstrated increased test scores. "They've scored an average of 22-percent higher than nonparticipating schools on the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test," Haughton said.

The program is popular with students and their schools. "We cannot even scratch the surface of the demand," Haughton said.



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