Learning in action
Tuesday, 17 May 2016. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze
From left, Noah Almond, Tyler Patterson and Jeremy Bramer test their robot, Cookie Monster, in its abilities to climb “stairs.” Photo by Brad Quarin
Learning in action
By Brad Quarin
Pincher Creek high school students glimpsed a future world when they experimented with building their own talking and dancing robots. Others experienced what college life will be like down the line.
It was all part of Experiential Learning Week, a program of Matthew Halton High School that emphasizes hands-on learning, tailored to student interests.
This particular week was highlighted by novel pilot projects such as a robotics course, and by actual attendance at Lethbridge College by students from MHHS and St. Michael’s School.
“It’s always very engaging,” says MHHS assistant principal Greg Freer, who organized Experiential Learning Week.
“Kids look forward to it. When I was passing out the interest surveys at the beginning of the year, some kids were literally shaking and vibrating, they were so excited.”
He was impressed by school staff, who conceived of 28 possible courses, which student interest narrowed to the 18 ultimately offered.
Mr. Freer also credits John Taylor, off-campus co-ordinator for Livingstone Range School Division, with establishing the partnerships that made the week possible.
One such partnership was with Calgary’s STEM Learning Lab, which offered the robotics course.
Seeing what the students’ robots could do was astounding.
One, Cookie Monster, was a spider-like robot that climbed “stairs,” or rather a stack of books. Linux Bot, a robot designed by Joshua Fitzgerald and Austin Ford, could walk and talk, through the use of Wi-Fi. Another, Clank, the work of Bill Thomson and Elijah Schuler, could dance.
Noah Almond and Jeremy Bramer, who built Cookie Monster with Tyler Patterson, found the course intriguing and significant.
“It was fun playing with the robot, but the technological advancements that are coming with robotics are insane,” Jeremy says.
“It’s going to be everything — they’re going to be in hospitals, they’re going to be in police stations, they’re going to be in schools.”
“If we don’t get attuned to it now,” he says, “we’re going to be slacking on what’s coming up.”
Noah explains that he enrolled in the robotics course specifically to learn more about coding, as he wishes to be a programmer. The course did turn out to be quite challenging, as they started with a basic model and then had to organize the parts and then program it.
They actually programmed it to do flips, to recognize faces and even to act drunk. When they offered Cookie Monster a drink, it would dance and then accept the drink.
The course cost $4,500 and was funded by the Regional Centre for Art, Design and Entrepreneurship, the Pincher Creek Lions, the Rotary Club, the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill Association and MHHS.
“We want to leapfrog from this to offering more programs like this to the community for after school, in the summer, summer camps, etc.,” Mr. Taylor says.
The Lethbridge College partnership also holds possibilities for the future.
Mr. Taylor says the idea was conceived locally and fine-tuned over two years. The aim was to provide
students with a “bridge” between high school and college life.
Twenty-eight St. Michael’s and MHHS students not only studied at the college, but lived in residence, made their own meals, used public transportation and met with academic advisors. The courses taken were interior design, digital communications, and justice and public safety.
The experiment proved to be a great success, with Mr. Taylor feeling the students fared “amazingly well.”
The students started with some guidance and were then given more responsibility — and it worked. They were punctual in attending courses and the instructors were pleased with their efforts.
“We got to learn a lot of stuff that wasn’t really offered here at school,” says Taylor Ewing, an MHHS student. She took the media course in Lethbridge, learning about photography, TV and radio.
St. Michael’s student Rayanne Mackelborg designed a 3D model of a house in the interior design course.
MHHS student Parker Starzyk was pleased with a later start time for morning classes but Taylor says it was still hard getting up because of late nights.
Parker was also surprised how much independence college instructors give students.
Living in residence was also an adjustment. Each student had a room in a townhouse.
St. Michael’s student Davina Smith, who enrolled in public safety, joked that it was easy not having to listen to their moms, but Sonny Smith says fending for himself was different.
Despite Parker’s meal plan, the students in her townhouse ran out of food on the second day. At one point, Davina says, all her townhouse had was lettuce.
MHHS students Micah Fox and Jacoby Provost found the toughest part was being without a TV and they seriously considered buying one.
All regular struggles in post-secondary life.
To organizer Greg Freer, another highlight of Experiential Learning Week was the “extreme trailer makeover,” which he says went over well with the
Mr. Freer had previously renovated a trailer, so he knows there is plenty of demand for them. As a result, he suggested it as a special course.
On the first day, a student teacher fell through the trailer floor. Flooring was quickly added to the list of needed renovations, along with reframing the wall and fixing the collapsing ceiling.
The task had relevance to those interested in welding, wiring, painting and other trades. There has already been some interest in buying the trailer.
A barbecue will be held on Thursday for board members, donors and Livingstone Range School Division staff, and the students’ trailer will be on display.
This will be another opportunity to show off the wide range of talents among Pincher Creek teens.
Jacoby Provost, left, and Micah Fox edit their work during the digital communications lab at Lethbridge College for Experiential Learning Week. Photo courtesy of Taylor Ewing
Students from Matthew Halton High School and St. Michael’s School visit Lethbridge College for a pilot project during Experiential Learning Week. Photo courtesy of Taylor Ewing
Students Taylor Ewing, left, and Jagger Bastien host a TV news show during their studies at Lethbridge College for Experiential Learning Week. Photo courtesy of Taylor Ewing.
Student Davina Smith takes notes at a crime scene investigation for a Lethbridge College justice and public safety course, part of Experiential Learning Week. Photo courtesy of John Taylor
Grade 8 students Bill Thomson, left, and Eli Schuler get their robot, Clank, to dance. Photo by Brad Quarin
Joshua Fitzgerald, left, and Austin Ford get their robot Linux Bot to walk. Linux Bot can also talk and works through Wi-Fi. Photo by Brad Quarin
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From the May 18, 2016 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze.
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