Though they like show-and-tell, the kids really want to be involved with their own hands and minds
Rocklin, CA (PRWEB) July 03, 2012
Ken Gracey president of Parallax Inc., a leading robotics and microcrontroller manufacturer, recently experienced teaching robotics in the classroom at an area school. He found he could give back to his community by sharing his lifelong dedication and passion for electronics and robotics with middle and high schoool students. His personal teaching experience is one of lessons taught, and learned.
Gracey’s personal commitment went far beyond the few hours of a typical show-and-tell. He helped develop two full robotics programs (middle- and high-school) and spent more than 80 hours over the course of 12 weeks teaching a total of 90 students. Indeed, before he could even get started he had to pass a number of administrative hurdles such as a background check, fingerprinting, TB test, etc. Once in the classroom there were further challenges to overcome, such as laptop PCs with incompatible USB drivers. As Gracey notes, “Put your product in front of 22 students and any problem will be amplified back to you 22 times.”
“Fifteen years ago we started our Stamps in Class program,” notes Gracey. “Most of our education team’s experience has been teaching teacher’s how to use our microcontrollers, and using their feedback to make continual improvements to the program. This year I decided it was important to get experience with the students themselves, so off to class I went.”
There were positive and unexpected lessons learned as well. For instance, simply teaching the kids to solder proved an effective way to boost their interest and self-confidence. Gracey comments, “Though they like show-and-tell, the kids really want to be involved with their own hands and minds. It was easy to get their attention with an 700° F soldering iron and it surprised me to see how much they enjoyed soldering.”
Going in, Gracey wasn’t sure how deeply to dive into the technology. Go too far and the kids might get overwhelmed and lose interest. After his experience in the classroom, Gracey concludes, “Success is less about technical formality and more about exposure and motivation. What is really important is that the students are truly excited by the course. When I heard comments like ‘Can you come earlier next week?’ or ‘Wow – this is sooo cool’ I knew I was on the right track.”
All involved, most importantly the students themselves, agree the program was a great success. Plans are already underway to carry forward and enhance the program. Gracey will be teaching again next school year. The middle school has created a full robotics elective in two 4-month rotations and robotics is now a core part of the Engineering Technology elective at the high school.
Real world experience will help Parallax continue to be a leader in microcontroller education. Parallax provides teacers, students, and engineers the material they need to learn microcontroller programming and interfacing. The company offers a variety of educational texts and kits designed to engage the developer in hands-on learning starting from circuit design and continuing to advanced robotics. Parallax tools and hardware continue to be used by top educators around the world.
To read a first hand account of Ken Gracey’s experiences teaching, visit the ParallaxInsider blog post at http://forums.parallax.com/entry.php?833-Parallax-President-Ken-Gracey-gets-Hands-on-Teaching-Robotics
Parallax designs and manufactures microcontroller development tools and small single-board computers as well as a vast array of products including project boards, robotics kits, educational tools, and sensors. Parallax is dedicated to providing the electronics industry with products that are technically innovative, unique, and economical while staying committed to thoughtful, creative design and quality workmanship. Parallax Inc. is a privately held company located in Rocklin, California.
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Contact: Lauren Davis, Parallax Inc.