Friday, August 6, 2010

Carriage House teaches 'future scientists'

Cranston Herald
August 6, 2010
All text and photos by Jen Cowart

The students at the Carriage House Day Care in Cranston recently completed a weeklong robotics camp.

Created and run by Assistant Director Tammy Donohue, the camp was one of several themes planned for this summer and was done in two phases.

“The first part of the week was the construction of the dinosaur, crab, mouse and scorpion using K’nex pieces and a battery operated pack,” Donohue explained.

“The second part of the week was utilizing the skills they had attained to engineer a car using a spring motor.”

The students participating in the camp were between the ages of 5 and 9, and they worked both individually and as teams to complete the projects. At the end of the week, demonstrations were held so that students could show their family members what they had been working on so diligently all week.

“Everyone worked in teams for the more challenging, more complicated projects,” Donohue said, stating that the younger students would look to the older ones for help on particularly tough parts of the projects.

Daniel Wong, age 9, found the hardest part to be snapping the pieces together, but was always willing to help a younger student with that very same part.

“There was great camaraderie and support for each other during the project,” Donohue said. “It was great to see.”

Using the directions sent by K’nex was beneficial, given the age range at Carriage House. The directions do not contain words, but rather are illustrated in bright colors for each step, and then in grayscale for steps that have been completed.

“It’s kind of like a wordless book,” Donohue said.

Phoebe DePerry, a former Carriage House student and current summer volunteer, was instrumental in overseeing the robotics projects. DePerry noted that many of the students do not often get to play with these types of hands-on building toys, living in such an electronic world.

“They spend a lot more time on Xbox and things like that, than I did when I was little,” DePerry, said. “It was very rewarding for them to see that they could make something move. I’m 13, and even I was excited when I got mine to move.”

Donohue explained that the students learned a great deal about physics and problem solving during the camp.

“Some added extra pieces to their turbo racers, and they found out that this made their cars too heavy,” she said.

Donohue said that participating in the camp allowed the students to not only construct and build, but to build their focus and concentration skills and to learn how to assess their progress during a multi-step project.

Director Marion McGrath was proud of the students’ work during the robotics camp.

“They’re amazing children; future scientists,” she said.

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