- School Life
Once a week after school, a group of middle school students rushes into the MakerSpace room off of the upper school Commons excited to build a robot. Under the watchful eye of Ryan Baber, upper school computer teacher, and Noah Liable, upper school math teacher, the middle schoolers put their heads together and get to work organizing and assembling numerous bolts, screws, poles and wheels.
“Through our robotics activities, students learn a great deal about collaboration, engineering and applied science in a very hands-on and practical way,” Ryan explained.
The process of building a robot includes working together to envision and evaluate solutions to problems and then create prototypes and test mechanisms. The final steps include troubleshooting and perfecting the robot in preparation for competition.
Ryan shared, “This club combines all the elements of the STEAM world with a very tangible and cool outcome.”
Middle school principal Brian Bartelli believes the new middle school Robotics Club enhances the school’s program. “It offers another opportunity beyond our current robotics elective courses.”
Currently, the middle school offers two Lego Robotics electives. Although the level of robotics, materials and challenges are different from the after-school club, the concepts of building and testing robotics has valuable connections.
Last spring, Ryan approached Brian and proposed establishing the robotics club. “Ryan’s passion and enthusiasm for including middle school students in his current upper school robotics program were undeniable,” Brian said.
He continued, “The upper school robotics students will help guide the younger students in the process of building their robot. The knowledge they will gain and the camaraderie they will build will enhance relationships while improving the robotics teams.”
When Ryan announced earlier this fall he would be starting the club, middle school students were very excited. “I am really pleased with the number of students who want to be involved in this activity,” he said.
With the addition of the middle school club, Pembroke Hill students can now participate in robotics from lower school through upper school. Ryan and Noah also coach the Upper School Robotics Club, and Ryan explained his plans for collaboration between the middle and upper schoolers.
“The upper school students already participate in the winter robotics season,” Ryan shared, “but there is also a fall season competition that is open to students in grades 7-12. Participating in this competition will extend the robotics season in the upper school as well as allow middle schoolers to see and contribute to the process of building a robot.”
Ryan believes that combining efforts will allow upper school students to mentor middle schoolers, and in the long run, will build a stronger, better program that will benefit all Ward Parkway robotics students.