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Robotics program flourishing at TES

When a Tharptown Elementary School parent approached TES principal Kelby Daniel about the school possibly starting a robotics program, Daniel supported the idea but said they would have to find a faculty member to spearhead the program.

That’s where first-year special education teacher Jake Ward came in. Ward heard about the idea and immediately volunteered to help start a robotics program at TES.

With more than 60 kids now involved in robotics at Tharptown Elementary, it’s safe to say the idea was a big hit with students and parents.

“We sent a letter home with parents and asked the kids to come by my room if they were interested,” Ward said. “We had enough initial interest to send out some paperwork to get started. I never imagined as many kids would sign up as we’ve had. It’s an unreal turnout. I expected maybe twenty or so, and we have more than sixty on the list.”

Ward serves as the third-fifth-grade team sponsor along with co-sponsor Monica Elliot. Brittany Pannell is the kindergarten-second-grade sponsor with Jessica Cantrell as the co-sponsor.

Students work with Dash robots, which perform simple tasks and turns through an app installed on iPads controlled by the students. Dash the Robot was the winner of the Creative Child 2017 Kid’s Product of the Year and 2017 Toy of the Year honors.

“It’s a pretty simple robot that does simple tasks like moving forward, turning right or left and moving backwards,” Ward said. “You can program more advanced turns. And it moves by centimeters and meters so it teaches the kids how to measure.”

The Tharptown Elementary Robotics Team meets Wednesday afternoons after school for practice. Later this month, six students from K-second and six students from grades 3-5 will compete in the University of North Alabama Robotics Competition, an event organized by former RHS teacher Lee Brownell. Ward said there will be several criteria that go into which students are invited to participate in the competition.

“We’re stressing attendance at school and robotics meetings,” he said. “So even if you attend the robotics meetings but don’t attend classes, you won’t be able to go. We want the kids to work for it and not have it handed to them. We’ll look at grades, and behavior is a major factor, too.”

All six students will work together in the team competition, Ward explained.

“We look at how well they can work in a team environment,” Ward said. “It’s not an individual event at all.”

Although the elementary robotics program is not affiliated with the Tharptown High School Robotics team, Ward hopes to see that change in future years.

“Since our program can not have sixth-graders, the teams stop at fifth grade,” he said. “We hope to talk with our high school sponsor and see if the sixth-graders can go over and work with them. Hopefully, we’ll get access to more robots. We’re trying to write some grants and doing anything we can to purchase more robots. The more robots we have, the more teams I can take to competition.

“I want to thank Mr. Daniel for his help and support this year. He’s been with us every step of the way. Everything I’ve gone to him about, he’s been supportive and encouraging, and we appreciate that. I couldn’t be happier with the start of this program.”

Students participating in Tharptown Elementary robotics this year include:

Trinity Studdard, Griffin Rogers, Anne Tyler, Kade Raper, Jacob Brown, Derrick Graham, Mason Turner, Jackson Grissom, Kinzley Behel, Elaina Coalson, Jeffrey Ventura, Olivia Cantrell, Saydie Mitchell, Cayden Porter, Devin Veltman, Audrey Kiel, Sadie Odom, Jessy Morales, Lillianna Hod, Jonathan De La Rosa, Christopher Fretwell, Carter Clement, Gabriella Hatmaker, Angel Morales, Caleigh Lawson, Alexis Holins, Randy Pike, Alex Muctezuma, Celee Bretherick, Ivy Coalson, Brayden Foust, Zillah Ibarra, Braden Hamilton, Jonathan Brown, Autumn Foust, Mike Promotor, Cole Borden, Lettie Hines, Noah Compton, Nick Galloway, Laura Belle Ergle, Cesar Rueda, Sebastian Bonilla, Isabella Hall, Miranda Gutierrez, Hannah Howard, Drayven B. Borden, Harley McGuire, Connor Crowe, Fatima Mendoza, Harlee Fisher, Kobe Warhurst, Shyla Martinez, Addison Gasque, Pamela Saint, Layne Franks, Grace Garcia, Kylee Beard, Layla Hood, Brent Hollins, Keagan Wimberly, Emily Byrd, Katelin Mears and Gracie Hopkins.


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