Friday, May 20, 2016

Experiential Learning Week Spring 2016 at MHHS – Robotics Course

Josh Davis

Matthew Halton High School held a robotics course as part of its 2016 experiential learning week, held from May 2 to May 6. Students were given the opportunity to put together and program robots supplied by EZ Robot. The CEO of STEM Learning Lab Dennis Kombeitz supervised the students. On Friday the students demonstrated what tasks they had built and programmed their robots to perform.

“It’s funny. I was just talking with one of the students about how at the beginning of the class I demonstrated some of the cool things the robots could do, and now they’re doing it three days later,” said Kombeitz. “They’re programming robots to do cool things like backwards somersaults, and climb stairs. One group got a robot to climb a pile of books, and they’ve only been using the software for sixteen hours. So it’s going outstanding.”

“The kids are learning real world robotics skills, and if you know what is coming in the world of robotics, then you know that those skills will become key differentiators in employability in the next decade,” said Kombeitz.

“There’s a misunderstanding about robotics that I think parallels the computer industry back in the 80s. Back in the 80s the computer industry existed as a silo industry, and every once in a while programmers would make something awesome, like a program for the banking industry or the medical industry. And so we would say ‘we’re going to need more programmers in the future.’ And that would have been true, except what we didn’t realize then was that we were going to need everyone to have computer literacy. And the same thing is going to happen with robotics, where anybody with robotics literacy is going to be hugely advantaged when looking for a job.”

Kombeitz said he was stunned when at a recent conference he was approached by over 25 people from the fashion industry about robotics. “I would have thought robotics and fashion couldn’t have been further apart. So I was surprised that they were interested. And what they told me is that if you want a job in the fashion industry today, which is now a year ago, that two of the most important skills are 3D printing and robotics.”

“The awesome thing is that not all of the kids here want to be roboticists, but they’re all going to gain skills that will help them in whatever careers they decide to go in. I’m super proud of them. It’s been a lot of fun for me too, and it’s neat for me to see how quickly they can program the robots, and how far they can take them.”

James Van Leeuwen (above) and Dan Crawford (below) discuss RCADE project with students

On Friday, as part of their wrap of, James Van Leeuwen and Dan Crawford of  the RCADE project presented their plans to the students, in the hopes of building a user group for the facility. Margaret Glover-Campbell, Programs Director with Mindfuel, from Calgary also attended this meeting, directing questions at the students about innovation and entrepreneurship in the modern world.

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