“Today we accomplished our goal, we are so proud of ourselves. Our goal was to lift up the piece of the bar. We accomplished our goal by never giving up and always trying,” Team AADJ Little Elves said.
On Friday, May 24, a group of Lincoln Elementary fifth graders presented the results of a semester-long robotics project. Meeting once a week after school, these students learned the basics of programming and wrote journal entries about their progress.
Last year, fifth grade teacher Tracy Fideler-Rodriguez decided to use STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) principles in Lincoln’s WRAP after-school program. She consulted with Patricia Tsoiasue, the founder of Makersville in Long Beach. Together, they launched a FIRST LEGO League Jr. (FLL) class.
FLL uses LEGO blocks and motorized components to teach youngsters the basic concepts of engineering and design. This year, FLL’s theme was “Mission Moon.” Four student teams at Lincoln chose mission objectives and worked to achieve them. Fifth grader Alyssa Rodriguez said she really enjoyed interacting with the students in her group.
“You get to know them a lot better when you’re trying to overcome a challenge together,” Alyssa said.
Alyssa’s team, “AADJ Little Elves,” elected to tackle Mission 1. This task involved designing a LEGO robot and programming it to cross a table, lift a bar, and send a supply cart down a ramp. Alyssa’s team watched anxiously as their robot began its journey in front of the audience. Following a couple of missed attempts, the device performed successfully and the onlookers roared with excitement.
Team Apatosaurus built a robot resembling a long-necked dinosaur. Its mission was to lift and carry an astronaut into an elevated space station. Team member Eddie Martinez said it was difficult to build a robotic arm that could hold the astronaut high enough without being too wobbly.
“I wish we had spent more of our time on the arm,” Eddie said as the astronaut dangled a few inches from its target.
Setbacks occurred, but Fideler-Rodriguez encouraged her students and reminded them of the importance of a growth mindset.
“If it didn’t work this time, think about what went wrong,” she told the class. “Figure out what you can change and then try again.”
Principles of fortitude and teamwork are just as important to Fideler-Rodriguez as the exposure to robotics, she said. She said she has loved watching students’ confidence and motivation grow during the semester. Teaching assistant Cristina Satterfield concurred.
“The kids learned how to work in a team and implement new skills,” Satterfield said. “It was great to see them excited and wanting to learn more.”
Tsoiasue volunteered as a coach, but was also instrumental in raising money for this program. In 2018, the Long Beach-Qingdao Sister City Association donated $2,000 to purchase the equipment needed to build four robots. Additional money came from an Epson grant and a Donor’s Choose campaign.
“It was awesome,” Tsoiasue said, looking back on the program. “The kids took photos, did weekly writing of their robot design status, and basically documented their robot design in their digital notebook.”
“I got to explore different things like speed and angle,” student Josue Morales said. “I put my mind to it and learned how to program a robot for a mission. It was very fun.”