Glenwood Middle School Students Stimulated, Challenged By Robotics

Glenwood Middle School sixth graders Izzie Nylander, Libby Waller and Dyson Rang work on their robot.

Members of the Glenwood Middle School robotics program test some of the robots they’ve created.

Glenwood Middle School Robotics team members with their robots. Front row (from left): Libby Waller, Izzie Nylander, Alex Peters, Connor Gregory, Bella Neal. Back row: Coach Shamani Langille, James Lundvall, Kellar Pavkov, Derrick Severson, Joah Davis, Dyson Rang, Jacob McQueen, Wyatt Bencker, Brecken Abbott, Kolton Thompson, Lyric Lundvall and Grant Sorensen.

Still in its infancy, the robotics program at Glenwood Middle School is making a name for itself and enjoying success on a regional and statewide level.

All five GMS robotic teams recently qualified and competed at the state competition in Council Bluffs with one team – the Super Chickens - advancing to the World competition next month in Dallas, Texas.

“We’ll be competing with 52 other countries,” said GMS Robotics coach and TAG (Talented And Gifted) instructor Shamani Langille.

The school’s VEX robotics program is in just its second year and is proving to be a popular and challenging activity for students in the TAG program, Langille said. She said participation in robotics builds confidence, stimulates thinking and creativity while encouraging teamwork and group problem solving.

“They kind of just bounce ideas off of each other and really do amazing work,” she said.

Students in the program are provided with all the parts and equipment needed to construct functional robots. Throughout the robot building process, teams are required to keep an engineering notebook to document their work.

“Their engineering notebook has to have a good design, talking about their robot process, design and building it,” Langille said. “

After the robots are built, team members put their creations to the test on a competition playing field. This year’s competition involves creating robots that can launch and push tri-balls into a soccer style net.  Next year, there will be a new game with a new set-up and new requirements.

Kolton Thompson, a GMS seventh grader in his second year of the program, said the most gratifying aspect of robotics is the challenge of building the best possible robot and having fun while competing with his teammates.

Sixth grader Dyson Rang said his team has strived to build the “ultimate robot” with everyone on the team trading tasks. Their first creation wasn’t “cooperative” so it had to be rebuilt with a new plan. All of the team’s work was documented in the engineering notebook.

“We keep track of what we do on our robots and what happens with the changes,” Rang said. “It (robot) worked and it was very effective.”

For eighth grader Grant Sorensen, being involved in the competitions with other teams is the most enjoyable aspect of robotics. Four teams, randomly selected, make up two alliances that compete at one time.

Sorensen said he signed up for robotics as an elective last year and enjoyed it so much he decided to come back for a second year.

Sixth-grader Derrick Severson has always enjoyed building things.

“I thought it (robotics) would be kind of cool because I always loved Legos and I always used to build,” he said. “It’s cool to build robots.”

Connor Gregory, a seventh grader in his second year of robotics, said he gets satisfaction seeing the hours of planning and building pay off.

“I like building the robot and then testing to see if it works,” he said. “And then seeing your design really working well and doing what it’s supposed to.”

Currently, robotics is only offered in Glenwood at the middle school level, but Langille hopes to see the program expand to the high school and students outside the TAG program.

“Due to government funding, the robotics program is currently  offered to only Talented and Gifted students,” Langille said. “I’m working with the school board to write curriculum and proficiency standards for a robotics program at the high school that will be offered to all students.”

The Super Chickens team that’s qualified for the World competition is comprised of Brecken Abbott, Wyatt Bencker, Thompson, Logan McDaniel and Lyric Lundvall. Some of the other Glenwood team names include the Goofy Goobers, Enter Name Here, Burger Robotics and Robo Rams.

The GMS robotics teams has competed at multiple competitions over the past few months. Next year, Glenwood is aiming to host its own competition for teams from throughout the region, Langille said.


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