- Sponsorship -

Making STEM a Team Sport

Bringing Coding, Robotics to Elementary Students

You could tell the sixth-graders gathered in the Red Hawk Elementary cafeteria know there’s excitement ahead, but since this was just the second meeting of the new robotics team, they were just learning the rules to the upcoming challenge.

A few pored over their computers to show each other what they already knew; others chattered about the rules and some got hands-on experience putting together the basic robot kit. For the competition, each team is sent a set of rules for a game. Students will put together the basic robot from the provided kit and then customize it to compete in the game.

Cedar Springs High School, like many districts, has long fielded a robotics team that competes with FIRST Robotics, but this is the first time the district’s elementary students have been given the opportunity. Team expenses are being funded through a Michigan Department of Education grant.

Sixth-grader Cole French checks a connection during early stages of making a team robot
Sixth-grader Cole French checks a connection during early stages of making a team robot

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics was founded in Massachusetts in 1989 to help inspire students in technical fields. It has grown into an international organization hosting competitions around the world.

Students signed up for the experience for different reasons.

“I really wanted to learn about technology,” said sixth-grader Dylan Vincent.

“I thought it would be fun and I might meet some neat people,” said his classmate Dawson Niess.

Jack Cairy already knew a little coding when he joined the robotics team, but he was looking to learn more. “I would like to deepen my understanding about it,” he said. “And I can do itwith different people, not by myself.”

That is exactly the point, said Meghan Bartoszek, the robotics coach. “When students work together on a project (and) compete against other groups, they are motivated to do their best, she said. “It is a really good STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activity.”

Sixth-graders Kyla Robinson (left) and Natalie Trader work on the computer app with help from robotics coach Meghan Bartoszek
Sixth-graders Kyla Robinson (left) and Natalie Trader work on the computer app with help from robotics coach Meghan Bartoszek

Principal Miranda Latimer agrees.

“I brought robotics to Red Hawk to give our students the opportunity to learn more about technology, while applying their math and science knowledge,” Latimer said.

“It will also strengthen their problem-solving skills, ability to work as a team and prepare them for their future,” she added. “Knowing that a large number of our students will be working in careers that are focused on technology, this is a great way to create foundational skills and interest.”

Sixteen sixth-graders signed up to be involved and Bartoszek has a few parent volunteers as well. All are excited about robotics, she said.

“It is really important to me to support my daughter’s choices,” said parent Cathy Robinson. “She loves trying new things and I like to have her experience everything that she can. Last year I helped with Odyssey of the Mind and this year, she wanted to try robotics.”

The new team will have six weeks to build a robot to compete against others in their age group. Competition begins locally in January, proceeds to a state competition, with national championships held in May.


FIRST Robotics competitions

Robotics students work on coding
Robotics students work on coding

- Sponsorship -
Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and is thrilled to spend some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.


The year of learning differently

SNN asked a sampling of students from across the county how it’s going for them so far in a school year of multiple instruction models...

‘I want it to look happy’

With help from generous donors, elementary teachers worked to make welcoming, kid-friendly space while following the rules of social distancing and sanitation...

New VP says ‘It feels like joining a family’

Aaron Romoslawski is the new vice principal of Sparta High School. He takes over for Stacey Rumsey, who was named Sparta High School principal last spring...

The changing of guard – as long-time educator and AD welcomes a new one

Godwin Heights Football Coach Brandon Kimble will take over as the district’s athletic director when Robert Hisey, dean of students and athletic director, officially retires Nov. 2...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

From cruise director to the classroom

Cortney O’Brien is the new interim dean of students for the 2020-2021 school year at Cedar Trails Elementary School. School News Network took some time to get to know her better in this edition of Meet Your Administrators...

Cedar Springs ready to help students succeed

Superintendent Scott Smith says preparations have been going well, thanks to the “grit and determination” of district staff...

Here come the students; schools try to be ‘prepared for everything’

Area school districts have to be able to switch instruction plans if the pandemic fires up again, and be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in one of their schools...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU