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StudentSpeak Webisode 6

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Published on Oct 29, 2010

This week, StudentSpeak meets a group of students from all over Chicago who are interested in robotics.

Led by founder and parent Jackie Moore and a team of volunteer mentors, members of the Chicago Knights get together after school in the basement of the Illinois Institute of Technology to hone their science, math and engineering skills. This webisode follows them as they compete in a regional robotics tournament.

Robotics might seem once-removed from what we think of as digital media, but they both share the same elements that drive effective learning in and out of the classroom. Beyond knowing computer programming, robotics involves a spirit of collaboration, and success is achieved through what digital media experts call participatory learning: learning through sharing and involvement, and learning connected to individual interests and passions.

Those passions shine through during the tournament, as a number of students describe their work and what they've learned during the process.

"We built these things," says Lydia, a Chicago Knight member and high school senior, as she tinkers with a machine. "So even if you only score one thing, or you don't score at all, but you go, 'Oh my god, it moved," then that's, like, a really big thing because you did that."

"You don't cause the players in, like, football to catch the ball," she adds. "You don't cause them to score, to make a touchdown. But you make everything in this happen."

The Chicago Knights is known for its willingness to help other teams and for its strong female representation. The program is also credited with helping students to set goals.

Monica, an alumna who now attends Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, started doing robotics as a freshman in high school.

"During the competitions I got to see different types of engineers, see applications of what they do, and sort of get a feel for whether or not I liked certain forms of engineering," she says. Her choice? Industrial engineering.

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