Partnership aids innovative learning

Southeast Valley M.S. students learn about engineering, research, programming

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter Maverick Dorman, right, and Sam Schmadeke get to work in Andy Peterson’s sixth grade industrial tech class. Dorman is one of 10 students on the school’s FIRST Lego League team, which teachers say perpares them to join the robotics team in high school.

BURNSIDE — A model train covering a table in the corner of the room immediately catches the eye when students walk into Curt Valentine’s technology classroom.

There’s much more to his class than just sitting behind a computer. Valentine and industrial tech teacher Andy Peterson at Southeast Valley Middle School have partnered this year to facilitate more creative ways of learning.

In the technology class, “we do a lot of keyboarding to start out with,” Valentine said. “We’re trying to go some different directions. That’s kind of the way I’ve joined up with Andy here, with him doing the industrial tech. … We want to try to join forces.”

Aside from class projects, Valentine and Peterson also facilitated a FIRST Lego League team through which select students learn more about robotics and engineering.

“I think the bigger story is Mr. Valentine and I coming together on things, combining technology and industrial technology,” Peterson said. “We have a long way to go, but we’d like to make this look seamless down here.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter Industrial Tech teacher Andy Peterson explains the course used for the FIRST Lego league. Middle Schoolers on the team have to build their own Lego robot and program it to complete tasks within the area in under 2 1/2 minutes.

“Cooperative learning happens sometimes every period.”

Valentine said the classes are now moving into robotics. They’ve painted a wall to be a “green screen” for video editing, and are remodeling another room to become a video/audio suite. He also wants to start giving them hands-on work with drones.

And the model train? That was donated to the class.

“We’re going to clean it up,” Valentine said. “We want to try to redo some stuff. Work on some electrical stuff.

“We want to print some cars with our 3D printer and see if we can get that to work. A couple of kids have tried it.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter Technology teacher Curt Valentine looks over the electric train that was donated to his class. He hopes to have students working on the electronics this year, and printing new cars for the locomotive to pull with the class 3D printer. The wall to the left has been painted for “green screen” effects when making videos.

The Lego League is a smaller group of kids from all grades.

“You can have 10 members on a team, but we had about 45 wanted to sign up and be involved,” Peterson said.

“So we knocked that down to kind of our varsity team of 10,” Valentine said. “The JVs are going to be involved here real soon. We’re going to open it back up again and have them come down and start working, learning about it, and have our varsity kids be able to explain what to do.”

The league has been great for teaching kids collaboration, Peterson said.

Sixth-grader Maverick Dorman said he has to work in groups in all of his classes, but he never liked it before.

“And usually I wouldn’t work in groups, and if we did I would just do all the work, and like, ‘I’m just going to do all the work and you just write the answers down,'” Dorman said. “And now I can just talk with the person and we can do the work together.”

Everyone had to work together, both building the Lego robot and programming it, he said.

Students have to figure out how to make their creation fulfill 12 tasks on a small playing field within a time limit.

The team is self-motivated, Peterson said, and will go to work without needing any input from the teachers.

“The kids come in during the time they can work on this, and they just go to work,” he said. “Engineering, problem solving, research, and they just love it. They’re laughing and having fun.”

“They had to put the Lego together, so that’s a mechanical thing. Then they moved to doing the programming, and they just take off with it. I don’t know the programming like they do. You teach them a little bit and they just take off with it.”

Principal Greg Slininger is happy with how the two classes are working together.

“It’s nice that they hit it off, and are transforming that space. They are just willing to think outside the box for the kids,” Slininger said.

This school used to be the Southeast Webster Grand High School, and the shop classroom was more geared toward a high school shop class, he said.

“So we’ve transformed it into a middle school space, and in doing that they’ve found that, they worked together transforming that space, and kept bouncing ideas off each other.”

Working in the FIRST Lego League now prepares the students for high school where they’ll move on to the FIRST robotics challenge.