Little Turtle Robotics Club continues to thrive | News

COLUMBIA CITY – Introduced in 2019, Little Turtle Elementary (LTE) offered a Robotics program for fourth and fifth-graders when Teacher Katie Myers approached the school about starting a VEX IQ robotics program.

The program instantly became a hit when LTE received a grant for one robot. Currently, the robotics class is led by Volunteer Coach / Engineer Ben Cooper who is an employee at Ultra Electronics (USSI). In the early stages of the program, USSI donated money to help purchase two more robots which allowed the school to have three teams of six students the first year. The second year of the program, LTE wrote a girl power grant to involve more girls in the program and received money for another robot. These teams are made up of fourth and fifth grade students. Cooper has dedicated a lot of time to this class for three years now.

Though the company does a lot of work behind the scenes, USSI supports Whitley County, both locally and from afar – working with the Whitley County EDC and Community Foundation of Whitley County, providing equipment for the military to protect US citizens.

The students work on coding, programming, designing, building, and driving the robots. The robotics class is led by Coach / Volunteer Cooper, Robotics Coach Katie Myers, and Robotics Coach Laura Williams.

“This is a fantastic program for students to become more confident and out of the box thinkers and it allows them to work towards a specific goal with other students their age,” Myers said. “Communication is very important because the students need to be on the same page and it is amazing to watch them (the students) solve problems to make their robots better.”

The Vex IQ program strives to engage students in critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, communication and hands-on STEM. The goal is to build a robot each year to perform in a challenge. The robot must complete specific tasks. The students start from scratch using VEX parts to build a robot to perform the task. The teams then design, modify and drive the robots for several months to prepare for competitions.

During the competitions, schools travel to regional events to form alliances with other schools to score the most points for the challenge of the year. LTE has competed in two competitions in Gas City and Portage, Ind. The teams performed very well. One of the teams achieved second place out of 40 teams. They (LTE fourth and fifth-grade students) nearly qualified for the state competition at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Williams said it is wonderful to travel to regional events and see how other teams have approached this year’s challenge. Williams also believes it inspires LTE students to go back, modify, rebuild and strategize to improve their own skills with multiple events inspiring the students to achieve more and more each time.

“We (LTE) are so thankful for Mr. Cooper bringing this program to Little Turtle as he volunteers hours of his time to benefit the students, “Myers said.” The students seem to really enjoy robotics and have grown so much through the year in problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, and communication. . “

LTE fourth and fifth-grade students involved in the robotics class are as follows: Evan Schrader, Kai Johnston, Blake Merriman, Brooklyn Smith, Jackson Hesting, Jillian Kuhmichel, Benjamin Harris, Cohen Wamsley, Wesley Street, Kennedy Tucker, Jamsion Cordes, Levi Sallee, Marcie Kennedy, Jackson Chapman, Vincent Coronato, Rowan Mission, Nick Cooper, Izzy Benson, Mokshi Patel, Tristan Grable, Thane Huffman, and Ari Anderson.

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