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Gilroy Library Expands Robotics Program

Gilroy library offers robotics program to students

Gilroy students looking for a fun way to boost their skills in science, technology, engineering, art and math (or “STEAM”) need to look no farther than the Gilroy Library in 2017, when the robotics program launched there last spring expands in the new year.  Dubbed “STEAM Powered: Robots and Beyond,” the program will offer classes to Gilroy students in grades 1-12.

More than 400 elementary school students participated in the Library’s robotics classes last year, between the Library’s “Robot Club” in the Spring and the robotics classes offered over the summer, in partnership with the Gilroy Unified School District’s Power School summer camp. In 2017, the library will expand the program to include classes for students in middle and high school.

County Libraries offer free coding classes

The Gilroy Library’s robotics program is part of the free coding classes available at all seven County Libraries, an initiative backed by County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, who chairs the Santa Clara County Library District’s Joint Powers Authority. “Coding is a foundational skill critical to our current and future local workforce,” says Wasserman. “It is vital that we make coding more accessible, especially to our underserved youth.”

The idea to use robots as a way of enhancing STEAM learning was the brainchild of librarians Lisa Duff and Kelly McKean, who were looking for ways to bring 21st-century skills to students who don’t always have the same exposure to technology as other kids in Silicon Valley.  They were able to get the program off the ground with a $15,000 grant from the Pacific Library Partnership through the Santa Clara County Library District. Last June, the two traveled to Pennsylvania to attend a training program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Academy that would help them develop a comprehensive curriculum.

All of the robotics classes offered by the Library align with the state’s Common Core standards. Younger students use a program called “Dash and Dot,” a platform that uses ready-made robots controlled via a tablet.  Along with basic concepts of coding, lessons also include math problem-solving, using the robots to move specific distances.

Programs for kids in middle through high school will use LegoEV3, which provides a solid introduction to building and programming robots.  The platform can also be enhanced and expanded to provide additional learning opportunities for older teens.

“I’m looking forward to expanding our Lego EV3 program in the next year,” says McKean.  “We’re planning to offer our introductory courses which will give youth a solid understanding of how to make the robots work.” McKean is also excited about the future of robotics at the Gilroy Library: “I’d love to have enough youth in our community who have been through the program so that we can start offering more opportunities where they can really use their imagination and creativity. A regular SumoBot competition, for example, or drop-in events where young people can create and program robots of their own design — offering that kind of hands-on free thinking space is definitely something we are striving for.”

 

If You’re Interested

The Gilroy Library will be hosting a three-day robotics class during the week beginning February 20th. Click here  to register.  Need more information? Contact Kelly McKean at kmckean@sccl.org.

December 16, 2016

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