The Junior Botball Challenge: Teaching Kids to Write Code

Today’s Contributor: Cynthia Rodriguez

I am an Instructional Coach at Thomas G. Harris Elementary. I have a passion for technology and math and love all things Apple. I received my M.Ed in Educational Technology from Texas State in 2008. This is my 2nd year as a CIC and have enjoyed collaborating and learning from fellow CICs and Technology Design Coaches.

What is the Junior Botball Challenge?

The Junior Botball Challenge is a way to engage students in a fun and exciting way using robots. Students here at Harris have already starting learning robotics in an after school program and are so excited about learning to code. They are excited to interact with a robot, but more importantly, they will learn so much.

What are they learning?

They “will learn how to write code in the C programming language.” Why is this important? “Learning to code improves computational thinking skills and problem solving, which both relate to improved math performance and problem solving skills.” All the things we are already teaching them and they can feel a sense of accomplishment with having created something using their own reasoning.

I am so impressed with this program and what it means to our school community to have our students engaged in this type of project. The robots are already made. The students will have to learn how to interact with the program to help the robots do a variety of things. For example, coding to just move the robot back and forth or coding to help the robot pick up a soda can. The students will do all the coding themselves through lots of trial and error, which is how we learned in the workshop.

How did we get involved?

Harris was lucky enough to get involved through a Dell grant for Title I schools. Yes it was a last minute workshop and yes, it turned our brains to mush. It also got us excited about the prospects and what can be accomplished at Harris through our amazing teachers and students.

This is the first year we are a part of the Andy Roddick Foundation after school program. We were lucky to be accepted by them and are able to expand who we can let in the class. We now have 2nd-5th grade in the class and are working hard to get the robots up and moving. We can’t wait.

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