Robotics No Longer Limited to After-School Clubs and Programs
Project Lead The Way incorporates VEX Robotics' hardware and Carnegie Mellon's RobotC software into its project-based STEM curriculum.
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Apr 13, 2011

Students taking part in a program called Project Lead The Way (PLTW) will usher in a new era – robotics in the classroom – when they compete in the 2011 VEX World Championships taking place Thursday, April 14, through Saturday, April 16, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at World Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla.

Once reserved mostly for after-school programs and clubs, robotics has become part of the school day through PLTW and its new partners, VEX Robotics and Carnegie Mellon University. PLTW adopted VEX Robotics hardware and Carnegie Mellon’s RobotC software for classroom use this year, giving PLTW students the opportunity to learn robotics technology in the classroom during the day – when everyone can participate. 

“We all interact with robotics technology daily. If it senses something and reacts, it’s robotics – automatic doors, check-out scanners, and automobile controls. It's a vital component of 21st century learning," said Jean Porter a PLTW high school teacher at Scott County High School, a PLTW Model School, whose students qualified for the 2011 World Championship and will compete in the event. 

Robotics such as the DaVinci surgical robot are now used routinely in hospital rooms. Manufacturing utilizes mobile robots on the factory floor. And undersea robots handle tasks tasks such as deepwater well and cable repair. Robots such as the Mars Rovers also have been integral to the exploration of space  as and in space, Porter said. Porter's team, the ScottBots from Kentucky's Scott County High School, qualified during PLTW's Innovation Summit in Washington, DC, in October. 

Celebrating National Robotics Week, nearly 10,000 middle school, high school and university participants from 16 countries around the world will compete in the action-packed 2011 VEX Robotics World Championship. The Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters series and host of The Science Channel’s hit show Head Rush, Kari Byron, will serve as master of ceremonies on Saturday, the final day of competition.

The VEX Robotics competition is one of the largest middle- and high-school robotics programs in the world, with 2,500 teams from 20 countries competing in 200 tournaments throughout the year. The competition program will give PLTW students the opportunity to use their new-found robotics knowledge in a competitive environment. The final event in VEX’s 2010-2011 season, the World Championship coincides with National Robotics Week. 

PLTW emphasizes problem-solving, critical thinking and teamwork – all skills that are in-demand from U.S. businesses and necessary in the 21st century high-tech economy. Schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia offer PLTW classes in biomedical sciences and engineering.

“We’ve learned watching robotics competitions – and through studies of how students learn – that robotics engages students, cuts absenteeism, boosts cooperative learning skills and improves test scores,” said Richard Grimsley, PLTW Vice President for Programs. “Robotics is high tech, a critical technology as evidenced by the radiation proof robots used in the management of Japan’s nuclear disaster – and fun.”

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