Middle schoolers present science projects at the Education Board Meeting

Adedamola Agboola

Manhasset school board members on Thursday spent time operating small robots called claw bots built by four middle schoolers.

The occasion was a meeting in which parents, teachers and board members got a chance to experience a typical science and technology class taught to middle schoolers.

Science, Health and Technology district coordinator Thomas Elkins said the robots were a product of Project Lead the Way, the science program being taught at the middle school is developed.

The program, which is run by Elkins, began in 2015-16 school year as part of the seventh grade technology program and has since expanded this year to include eighth grade students.

“We implemented it partially because we didn’t have enough kits for building and coding,” he said. “We’ve had to reorder some more kits over the summer to supplement the current ones and now it’s being implemented in full.”

Project Lead the Way is the nation’s leading provider of K-12 STEM programs that delivers to more than 8,000 schools all over the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The non-profit organization provides schools with support like an online curriculum, management system and network for an up front registration fee of $750. 

“The registration fee and training fees aren’t really the issue. The bulk of our expenses comes from the program PLTW provides like the Auto desk the kids use and the kits,” Elkins said.

Autodesk is a software program that professional designers and engineers use to  design robots or buildings before they’re physically built. 

“The response we get from the students are great,” he said. “They are very enthusiastic and engaged.”

After the program expanded, the school has hired Gary Pfaeffle to teach eighth graders. Frank Russo teaches the seventh graders.

During the presentation, Elkins also discussed how the program could be expanded to cover all the upper grade levels and some of the benefits.

“Some of the students upper grade students can take the course for college credit,” he said.

Elkins said he initially planned to have the PLTW teachers build the bots for his school board presentation, but the student had other plans.

“They got wind of what we were trying to do and they decided to build the claw bot during their lunch break,” he said.

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