On other business at the Key Peninsula Branch of the Pierce County Library last week, I was taken by a large display of photographic portraits along the upper walls of the facility. They were commanding. They were the product of the Key Peninsula Middle School’s digital photography class.
Long story short, KPMS Principal Jeri Goebel checked with digital photography and science teacher Richard Miller who said, “gladly!” when asked if I could join his kids doing their thing.
Accordingly, Friday afternoon found me cozying my camera while dodging raindrops dashing into KPMS. Turns out, this was not digital photography day; it was robot day. Luckily, two of teacher Miller’s photography students, seventh-graders Katherine Jensen and Shannon Bundrick, were among the robot students, so we combined photography with robots for this tale, again reflecting how our Peninsula School District kids are involved with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
Shannon remarked, “Photography is a way to leave a mark. It says something more than words can ever explain.”
To Katherine, “Photography is one way to say how you feel without words. If you take a photo, it will last forever.”
A spontaneous gathering of enthusiastic “roboteers” gathered up their equipment and assembled in the commons to proudly display what their creations could accomplish in pairs, as singles, and, once, a foursome of robotic gladiators clashed then cooperated on the commons floor. Impressive. All self-automated. No remote controls involved in most activities.
To eighth grade robot enthusiast Dylan Clay, “Robotics is the most entertaining class I’ve ever had. It teaches you how to program and build robots and keeps you busy and working hard while having fun with drag races and robo wars. You can program it to go forward and back, turn left or right, spin, and make noises. With an app, you can control it via Bluetooth from your smartphone.”
“Robotics is my favorite elective,” said classmate Finn Padberg. “I made a drag race robot and one to battle with. Mr. Miller teaches us a ton on how to build them. We can program them to manually perform through our phones.”
Seventh-grader Christopher Coates said, “I have learned so many new things in robotics, like how to program. I also learned about Lego bricks.”
His classmate, Gage Pinnell, loves the program because “it is a fun, safe place to express my creativity. Using an app called NXT you can control your robot with Bluetooth and your phone instead of using a computer.”
Miller explained how elective classes at KPMS are critical in engaging students.
“Robotics and photography classes empower students to express their creativity while developing skills needed in a 21st century workforce.”
To seventh-grader Josh Sonnen, “Robotics is the best elective KPMS has. You learn to build, program, and gear robots to do different tasks.”
With a touch of pride, he added, “My robot is the best tug of war robot in the class.”
Earlier in the year, Josh learned how to design websites, work with Photoshop, and create music videos. He said, “All have proven to be exciting, mind-opening classes.”
For classmate Mukam Shohradov, “Robotics is a class where creativity is encouraged. I am able to build whatever I want. I can make a fast, strong, or destructive robot. It’s a fun and creative environment.”
To fellow seventh-grader Tanner Stubblefield, “Because we are always trying to make a new robot and challenge and beat each other in tug of war, Robotics is fun and exciting.”
I learn something every time I’m around our kids. We had NONE of this when I was their age.
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.