First Week of Teaching

I had been taking robotics and programming classes at Storming Robots for four years, when I was offered a job there. Over the summer, Storming Robots holds week long robotics and programming camps for grades four through eight. It’s eight students, and two instructors per class. There are usually five classes going on at a time. Most of the instructors are high school or college students.

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Let me walk you through my first week, the class was called vex IQ quadruped. Vex IQ being the hardware the students were using, quadruped being the type of robot they were building. All instructors show up an hour before students for setup. When I arrived, I met the main instructor for my class, and we went over what we would be covering that day.

We had a full class of eight students. Two of the students said they had no programming experience, the rest said they had a small amount of experience. Opening the class, we gave out the Vex IQ robot brains and programming exercises. As we had planned, all the students spent the whole first day working the the exercises.

The  second day, robot construction began. Previously, in preparation for the class, I had constructed the quadruped robot the students would be building. It took me an hour. In a classroom environment, working in teams of two, with some help from two instructors, it took the students a whole day. This ended up being a pattern for all future classes. Apparently, it’s much easier to get distracted while building than when programming.

The next two days were all about programming simple movements, Turning, walking with one leg at a time, walking with two legs at a time, and so on. Trying to get get even basic movements done is difficult with the four legged quadruped design. Most of the classes at Storming Robots use wheeled robots for a simple reason, legs are hard. Any motion required each leg to move just the right amount at exactly the right time, or else the entire robot would lose its balance and fall over.
The last day of the week is always presentation day. All the parents arrived in the classroom forty five minutes before the end of class. Each team talked about one thing they worked on, and showed off one of the simple movements they programmed.

All the presentations went well. As I learned in the coming weeks, each class tends to be fairly balanced when it comes to talking in front of people. My first week was no exception, I had two students who were very comfortable and entertaining, and one student who would rather not have talked at all.. The bulk of the class weren’t experts or super happy about it, but they all did well.
Once presentations were over, the head teacher and I had the fun job of disassembling all of the robots. Watching the students build the things was riveting enough, but taking them apart was even more exciting.

My first week of teaching was a bit stressful, since it was basically my first time teaching anybody anything, but it was a good example of what a typical week at Storming Robots is like. Trying to keep the class focused, trying to help someone figure out what they did wrong, and trying to make it all entertaining and educational for the kids.

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