Middle School: AIAA Foundation Grant

Much of the funding for our high school Academy comes in the form of grants, generously donated from a wide range of community sources. Our middle school elective is no different. The 7th and 8th Grade students explore a diverse range of engineering topics—structures, gear ratios, sensor technology, and coding to name a few—and they need technology to do it! Our middle school classroom is well stocked with laptops and LEGO Mindstorms EV3 sets to help them accomplish this.

This semester, the middle school elective is pursuing a space exploration theme (this ties in with our Science and Engineering Expo on the 3rd of May, here at the Upper Campus). In keeping with this theme, the students are learning about navigation; specifically, how do you write algorithms that can guide a robot to a particular destination? How do unmanned spacecraft and planetary exploration robots find their way?

For this navigation unit, we needed to supplement our existing EV3 robots with extra add-ons. We decided to invest in infrared sensors, which are paired with small beacons (both pictured). The beacons either act as a hand-held remote control for the robot, or they can broadcast a signal for the robot can home in on. Both modes involve careful crafting of navigation algorithms that make decisions based on sensory input.

The simple Robot Educator, shown with the infrared sensor attached (the
red/black shape mounted in its center) and two infrared beacons

Mr. Meadth is a member of the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics), and so was able to apply for an AIAA Foundation Classroom Grant to purchase these needed resources. Twenty different schools were selected for this grant of $250, which is aimed at teachers doing hands-on STEM activities that relate to aviation or aerospace, and we are glad to announce that Providence was one of them. We now have enough sensors and beacons for an entire class—thank you to the AIAA Foundation!

Left to right: Ashlynne, Brennan, and Todd
show the robots, all with IR sensors attached

The middle school students will continue to learn the finer points of using these and other sensors for the rest of the semester. Their final project will be to design and construct their own version of a Mars rover, which will compete in an open-invitation event in early June. We’ll keep you posted on this exciting long-term project!

Don’t forget to follow this blog to get all the latest on the middle school and high school engineering activities, and please send your questions and comments to Rod Meadth at rmeadth@providencesb.org.

630 E Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, USA

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