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Middle-schoolers learn coding, 3D printing, CAD

Kelloggsville — Eighth-grader Dominic Mejia selected a square from the list of options on the Tinkercad program he was using. He reshaped it to become a door as classmate Nayelli Muniz watched.

“You know you can just select a door from the options,” Nayelli said. 

“Yeah, but I wanted to create my own door,” Dominic responded.

The students are part of the middle school’s Robotics class, where students learn about operating a robot through computer coding, 3D printing and computer-aided design.

“Often when people think of robotics, they think of building a robot,” Robotics teacher Kirsti Dickinson said. “In this class, we don’t build a robot, but we do focus on coding so students learn how to get a robot to do something.”

In the semester class, students use LocoRobo rovers that provide the basics in coding. From there, students work with 3D printers, learning to use code to direct the devices to build objects. Lastly, they use the Tinkercad: first to build a snowman, then a house, a mini-mall and finally, a city.

Eighth-grader Adriyanna Basaldua designs a home during Robotics class

“It makes me want to pursue a career in designing,” said eighth-grader Mariah Elizabeth Young-Manning, who added that she has enjoyed fashion design, but had not thought of design in terms of architecture until taking the robotics class.

“I found it to be more difficult than I thought,” said eighth-grader Adriyanna Basaladua as she tried to make the pillars around her house even. “I wanted my design to be a modern house because I love how it looks with its sleek design.”

Introducing the World of STEM

The Robotics class is part of the school’s STEM elective offerings, which includes computer science and broadcasting. Computer Science is offered to all middle school students — sixth through eighth grade — while Robotics and Broadcasting are offered only to eighth-graders.  

The goal of the science, technology, engineering and math offerings is to expose students to the various opportunities in science and technology as they head to the high school, which recently opened a new STEM wing.

“Helping to expose the students to what STEM is now gives them an idea of what they can do, and the opportunities that are out there,” said teacher Lexi Popma, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade Computer Science and Broadcasting. Jason VanderWoude teaches sixth grade Computer Science.

Exposure to STEM courses introduces students to a variety of career options such as web design, architecture, video game design, information technology, engineering and the sciences. It also helps students develop key soft skills such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration, Popma said.

In Popma’s Computer Science class, students learn how to code to create a video game. Using code.org, a nonprofit computer science education source, they follow a step-by-step process to learn how to make characters move and interact. The next step is creating their own video game.

“With the coding, I have learned there is so much more stuff in how to get a character to walk, turn left and other stuff,” eighth-grader Nasir Allen said.

Both Popma and Dickinson teach in a former art classroom, while the broadcasting area is in a large, converted closet. Popma said the space is scheduled to be renovated, and middle and high school STEM teams are working to align curriculum.

“By aligning the whole program, students would be able to map out what courses they want to (take) as they move through their school career and prepare for the next step after graduation,” he said.

Read more from Kelloggsville: 
Opening doors to science
They built it, and people came

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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