TISD technology clubs creating the future

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Students participating in technology clubs at Troup Middle School presented projects in coding, 3D printing and Lego robotics at the Nov. 13 TISD board meeting.

The students were part of two groups that meet daily during school and an after school club that meets Tuesdays and Fridays, all led by Jill Wilkinson.

This is the first year for Wilkinson to teach the technology classes though she has served as Troup Middle School librarian for four years.

“Troup ISD is a wonderful school district for which to work. My boss, Shannon Capps, is very supportive of all my program suggestions and sees to it that we get all the equipment and materials necessary to ensure students may successfully pursue their interests in the library, whether it is gardening or technology or anything in between,” Wilkinson said of her experience at TISD.

The classes led by Wilkinson grew out of a technology camp the school hosted this past summer. Items for the camp had been rented from Region 7.

“Shannon Capps was so impressed with how eager the kids were, she offered to buy some of the kits for the school,” said Wilkinson. Capps serves as technology and library director.

One group of students presented the board with objects designed and created using a three dimensional printer. Other students presented projects using Sphero, a coding program used in conjunction with spherical robots. Yet another group displayed robots built and programmed using Lego Mindstorm materials and software.

“Students in the after school group are getting ready for a robotics competition through TCEA [Texas Computer Education Association],” Wilkinson said.

“What they took to the board meeting was practice and experimentation.” Wilkinson explained, “They were just building a robot and coding it to see how it moves and how to work the software.”

For the competition, students will be required to build a robot with only a core kit and one extension kit, according to Wilkinson, and will have to run a specified course.

The course used in competition represents Mars and must complete certain duties. According to information from Wilkinson, students will have to build and code a robot that can maneuver, grasp and transport objects to specific positions on the course mat among other tasks.

“This year we’ll basically be learning,” Wilkinson stated regarding her goal for this year’s area competition scheduled for Jan. 20 at White Oak.

“The process of building the robot and having it run the course, there’s so much problem solving involved,” Wilkinson commented. “That’s really my primary interest in these clubs, is to encourage the kids to think.”

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