As robots rolled around the floor, Prince Rupert’s Grade 4 and 5 sharpened their logic and coding skills — controllers in hand — on June 14 for the city’s first ever Sphero Olympics robotics competition.
Approximately 35 students gathered in Roosevelt Park Elementary School’s gymnasium where they worked in teams to program spherical robots called Spheros. The teams then competed to accomplish tasks such as navigating a maze, jumping over ramps and playing soccer.
Andrew Samoil, director of instruction with School District 52 (SD52), said the teams were able to program the Spheros using their iPads, which they used to control the Spheros’s colours angle of direction and speed.
“To the outsider, it may look like they’re just playing with little balls,” he said. “But every move the ball makes, they’ve had to program it, and it forces them to use logic and problem-solving skills.”
The afternoon was organized as a part of the new provincial curriculum that is putting an emphasis on applied skills and technology. This approach places a high priority on STEM skills and thought processes that enable students to solve the complex technical tasks they will encounter in the modern workplace.
“They have a task, we give them the tools they’ll need to solve it, and we put them into teams because they’ll have to learn how to work in that environment,” said Samoil. “We know there are a lot of opportunities for students who know how to code.”
Paramjit Khaira, vice-principal of innovation and technology for SD52, said the school district plans to expand the competition next year to include both Prince Rupert Middle School and Charles Hays Secondary School. If those schools are included, he said they will be given more sophisticated robots to program and more complex tasks to complete.
“It’s the future,” Khaira said. “Students need to learn right from the grassroots, right from the beginning and it will build their skills.”