Seventh-grader Marshal Mull crouched down, watching as his tiny robot, Sphero, navigated a maze.
Carefully measuring speed, distance, and degree of turns, he and fellow students programmed the softball-sized robot to make its way along the path.
Several times it rolled close to the masking tape walls, but then corrected and veered off, it’s aim true. Wellington school board members watched Oct. 17 as Sphero found the exit again and again, proving students’ skills at coding.
First shown to consumers in 2011, Sphero has become a mainstay in computer science and engineering classrooms throughout the country. It’s controlled through a phone application that simplifies code for new programmers, allowing them to slide tabs around their screens that prioritize tasks and how their the little ‘bot will react to those tasks.
Five Spheros have been introduced at McCormick with about 20 students taking part in coding exercises so far, said teacher Michael Braddock.
“We’ve seen coding taught in so many other schools that we wanted to finally give it a try,” he said. “We know many of our students have done some coding, just not in school.”
It took a little over two days for Mull and fellow students to program their Sphero.
“You have to make sure it’s turning the same way each time,” he said while showing school board members the nuances of going around corners in the maze. “There can’t be any little differences.”
McCormick principal Nathan Baxendale said other tech initiatives later this school year will involve students designing mock-ups for Christmas light arrangements for national monuments and holding an “Hour of Code,” a global program started in 2013 that attempts to introduce new students to computer science and make learning code seem less daunting.
“We’ll really have the chance to immerse these kids in different aspects of coding,” he said. “That can mean a fourth-grader who’s just getting started or someone like Marshal who’s been doing it for a while and is ready to advance. The end game of this is to bring this sort of curriculum into the district as a whole on a full-time basis.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.