If the robotics class at Mount Alexander College is anything to go by, we will have robots helping in disaster zones in no time.
Science teacher Samara Kelly loves the hands-on creative process involved with robotics. “Students love to build things, and they love computers,” she said.
“Robotics is a way of teaching creative thinking and problem-solving in a way that students enjoy. Mount Alexander College has a huge focus on hands-on learning – we do a lot of practicals as part of the ‘Take Control’ student lead learning system.”
Robotics students meet future engineer
During Semester 2 in 2015, Samara welcomed Rodrigo Acosta into her classroom as an In2science mentor. Rodrigo is studying a Master of Biomedical Engineering at The University of Melbourne, with a focus on developing prosthetic limbs and designing solutions that can increase the level of healthcare in developing countries. Mentoring in a robotics class was the perfect match for Rodrigo.
The first day at Mount Alexander College revealed the path Rodrigo would take during his placement, but in an unexpected way. “When Samara was taking the roll, a student called Samatar walked in late and angry,” Rodrigo recalled.
“He argued with Samara about being late and sat at the very back of the class with his headphones on. I immediately thought he was going to be a challenge because he showed no interest in being in the class.”
When the students paired up to begin working on their Lego robots, Samatar was left to work by himself. After introducing himself to other students in the class, Samara asked Rodrigo to give Samatar a hand as he was a bit behind.
“I thought ‘great, this is going to be tough’,” Rodrigo said. “I sat down and introduced myself. Samatar was a bit cautious to start with, but when I told him I was from Mexico we started talking about Mexican soccer players. From then on he trusted me, I was on his side.”
“Samatar was starting from scratch, and I could see how unsure he was. Every time he took a piece, he double checked with me that he was putting it in the right place. I kept nudging him to try and see if it worked – if it didn’t, it was easy to fix.”
By the end of the class, Samatar had almost caught up with the other students. “He was very happy, but more importantly, proud of his work,” Rodrigo said.
“I did nothing; only sat next to him and gave him the confidence to make mistakes.”
Helping one = helping all
Samara has appreciated the attention Rodrigo was able to provide Samatar. “I could relax more, confident knowing that Samatar was getting the help he needed, which lead to a much more ordered classroom environment,” Samara said.
“Their relationship has grown really strong and Samatar’s confidence in this class has sky-rocketed due to the encouragement he got from Rodrigo. He’s the reason Samatar is so focused in class. We’re both going to miss having Rodrigo around.”
Samara said the partnership between Mount Alexander College and In2science is extremely valuable. “The experience and knowledge that external mentors bring to the school adds another layer of depth to student learning,” she said. “They help students explore real-life applications of science knowledge and provide excellent examples of how awesome a life in science is beyond school.”