Middle schools tend to be high-energy settings to begin with, but give students a week to work on projects of their choosing, and the enthusiasm level goes off the charts.
During Mountain Middle School’s intersession this week, several students programed round, rolling robots called Spheros to complete a nine-hole golf course.
“The hardest thing was to get it to arc right,” said Morgan Holley, 13, a seventh-grader whose parents are Sam and Josh Holley. “You have to get the timing, the degree of the turn and the speed all right.”
Holley designed Hole No. 5, complete with its sweeping dogleg left, for the students’ golf course that has the little Spheros navigating through hallways and negotiating turns throughout the school.
“I had to try about 100 times,” Holley said about programming her Sphero robot so it could successfully negotiate its path.
Other students interested in programming built their own gaming consoles to run retro video games from the 1980s and ’90s.
Josh Dalley, a sixth-grade science and math teacher, said the best thing about intersession week is that students get an entire week to pursue a project that they are passionate about.
“This helps spark students’ interest in coding. Some of these kids will get an app on their phone, and they’ll start coding it,” he said.
Digital media and fabrication teacher Eric Hillstrom added, “This is the stuff that they are going to take home with them.”
Hillstrom built kits for students who used Raspberry Pi units as single-board computers to create central processors for their gaming consoles.
The Raspberry Pi processors and the Sphero Robots were available with the help of a $1,000 grant from Think Network Technologies, a family-owned Durango firm that offers information technology services.
“This is not tech for tech’s sake,” Hillstrom said. “We’re teaching kids you can use technology to go solve problems. It involves coding, but it also involves innovation, creativity and problem-solving.”
Diego Verduzco, 12, a seventh-grader whose parents are Hydi and Sergio Verduzco, said this is the second gaming console he has built, and the new version is less susceptible to overheating.
“The hardest part was getting all the wiring and the daisy chains right so it would work,” he said.
firstname.lastname@example.orgAn earlier version of this story misspelled the first name of Suzanne Jackson in a photo caption.