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Rocketing through Robotics

New class has students immersed in creative design, 3D printing

The eight students in an Introduction to Robotics course at Kelloggsville High School include sophomores, juniors and seniors, but for all eight, the chance to do hands-on, creative work this semester was a big draw.

Senior Aubrey Wood said the opportunity to be imaginative and build things was appealing.

“The programs in this class give us multiple different possibilities to create things – a rocketship, storage compartments for drones, even our own houses,” she said. “I decided to take the class because I wanted to see how 3D printing works. I also wanted to be part of a team, and this class has definitely made me feel like we’re one and the same.”

Junior Matthew Zaiger sounded some of the same themes.

“I love how the class allows me to be as creative as I want to be,” he said, “and I enjoy how hands on it is.”

And junior Pablo Vicario said simply: “I enjoy the creativity that the class brings out in people. The sky’s the limit.”

Fourth-year Kelloggsville math and robotics teacher Brian Ball wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The students love the creative freedom,” he said. “That’s one reason I am so excited about this course. It also is preparing Kelloggsville students to enter a technologically driven workforce.”

Five of the rockets that students at Kelloggsville High School designed and printed as part of an Introduction to Robotics course

Hoping to Partner with Local Manufacturing, Technology

Ball said he is hoping to springboard from the class to partnerships with local manufacturing and technology companies through Kelloggsville’s School to Work program. There the idea would be that students would use CAD software and programming as part of their internship.

This semester, Ball said, the students are spending the first nine weeks of class learning how to use CAD software and the second nine weeks they will learn how to program different sensors and motors using a kit of parts. 

Already students had a chance to make rockets, the Kelloggsville mascot, using a 3D printer. Students began by sketching out ideas on graph paper and then had to scale their model to be no larger than four inches by two inches in size. Afterwards, they went into the CAD software and built their rocket, the file was then exported to the 3D printer and printing began.

Ball noted that the school’s 3D printer does a thin layer at a time, so each rocket took between 30 minutes to an hour to complete. 

This is the first year Kelloggsville has offered a robotics course. Last year launched a Robotics team that met after school but didn’t get to compete due to Covid. This year, the robotics course is a math elective credit to prepare students for robotics competition season in January.

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Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan
Phil de Haan covers Grand Rapids and Kelloggsville and also is a general assignment reporter and the point person for the SNN Facebook and Twitter feeds. He hails from Exeter, Ontario, but has called Grand Rapids home since 1985. He is the son of a longtime public school teacher who taught both English and machine shop! Phil took both classes at South Huron District High School, but English stuck, and at Calvin College, where he met his wife, Sue, he majored in English and minored in journalism. His background includes both freelance writing and public relations work, including teaching an advertising and PR course at the college level. In the summer of 2019, he began his own freelance writing and communications business. In his spare time, Phil plays pick-up hockey and pickleball and tries to keep tabs on his two adult children.  Read Phil's full bio or email Phil.

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