The robotics program at Foundation Academy helps students explore a field of interest while having fun at the same time.
The robotics classrooms at both of Foundation Academy’s Winter Garden campuses are always buzzing. Sometimes it’s the chatter of students debating the best way to build a robot and other times it’s the whizzing sound the machine makes when it comes to life just as they imagined it would. Either way, the robotics program is an exciting one for students eager to learn about the process.
Lower School Robotics
Sixth grade science instructor, Lori Waters, supervises the Lego Robotics Club at the elementary level. She describes the after-school activity as an introduction to robotics that teaches students to build, construct and be creative while integrating problem solving techniques. Since many enter the program as master Lego builders, they are excited to learn about the programming aspect.
Waters explains that some students gravitate toward programming while others lean toward building. “It’s a really good mix of kids at this age,” she says.
The fact that it’s a robotics club rather than a class allows the experience to be completely student driven. They’re the ones who decide what they want to build and Waters works with each one to overcome challenges they face along the way, from looking for the right piece to figuring out the programming.
“I think that this is the future for this generation of kids and that every child should learn computer science,” Waters says. “I think that we, as Foundation Academy, are excited about offering this opportunity to these students and look forward to growing this program for them at all ages.”
Upper School Robotics
At the middle and high school levels, students can choose to take robotics as an elective. Tech instructor, Joey Zigan, says there are differences in the ways that students do programming based on grade level. They begin with drag-and-drop visual programming when they build robots in middle school and advance to typing out Java coding in their high school years.
All Upper School robotics students have the opportunity to participate in competitions as well. In middle school, participation in the FIRST Lego League has them pre-program instructions to earn points for each task they get the robot to complete. The high school competes in the FIRST Tech Challenge, where they focus on the remote-control aspect of robotics, inputting controls into the machine to complete the tasks at hand.
“The progress they’ve made in the past two years that I’ve been here, competition-wise, is exciting to see,” Head of School Carol Grosshans says.
Out of four middle school teams that competed this school year, two advanced to regionals. In addition, many students at the high school level competed for the first time and placed fourth out of 24 teams.
Zigan is popular among students because of his hands-on instruction. With STEM becoming one of the fastest-growing fields in the U.S., he believes in the importance of understanding what you’re doing on a computer.
“Even if you’re doing a professional sport, eventually you’ll have to touch a computer, so having some idea of how it works and how you can make it work for you, it only helps,” he says. “There’s no downside to it.”
STEAM at the School as a Whole
With its 60th anniversary in full swing, Foundation Academy has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a small kindergarten class. There are now two campuses and a brand new athletic stadium that is on track to be completed in time for the first football game of the 2018-19 school year. It will also host soccer games and track meets.
The school’s growth has not only included new buildings but it has facilitated the introduction of STEAM-related curriculum and clubs for students to explore their passions while building their foundation for life. Many clubs, such as the new dance team, were formed because students expressed their interest to the faculty and they listened. In fact, that’s how the robotics program got its start.
“It was the heart and passion of the kids,” Grosshans says.
As students participate in classes and clubs related to science, technology, engineering, arts and math at Foundation Academy, they are gaining real world experience that they can take with them into college and beyond. After all, academic excellence is the first step to building a foundation for life.
125 E. Plant St.
Winter Garden, FL 34787
15304 Tilden Rd.
Winter Garden, FL 34787
In Their Own Words
The students of Foundation Academy’s robotics programs share why they enjoy it.
I like robotics because we get to be creative.
Ethan, Lower School
I like robotics because I’m a Lego fan.
Casey, Lower School
Robotics is great because of how great our teacher is in wanting
us to succeed and know more. It’s fun because you get to meet
new people in the class and help each other all the time.
Ian, Middle School
I like robotics because building new designs is fun. I like
programming and telling the robot what to do. Our teacher
helps us a lot with our work, and it’s a fun experience with
Elijah, Middle School
It’s hard to say because there are so many thing I enjoy. I would say
programming if I had to pick one. The teacher is really good too.
Emily, Middle School
I like how I get to make my own designs. I like my teacher
because he’s a great teacher and friend. He gives ideas for
your own design and teaches you how to program. It’s a great
experience because you use this type of stuff when you’re older
Kelsi, Middle School
Originally, I wasn’t supposed to be in the class. But after I did
the building I became really interested.
Mykal, High School
I started off in 6th grade. It’s become a passion and is
something that I want to pursue. I can express my imagination
but also emotion because you can build based off of what you
feel. It encourages me to try harder and is good for problem
solving and critical thinking.
Logan, High School