slide image

Remarkable Robotics

From turning a simple screw to creating complex machines, JUSD students are learning robotics without limits. 

Two courses at Mira Loma Middle School – Robotics 7 for seventh-graders and Robotics 8 for eighth-graders – teach students a range of coding and mechanical skills while laying groundwork for careers such as engineering, vehicle diagnostics and repair, and computer pro​gramming. 

Each class enrolls 30 students and features curriculum designed by Project Lead the Way, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that specializes in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lessons for preK-12 students nationwide.  

At Mira Loma Middle, the electives help students gain expertise, attain excellence and learn to build things society needs, said John Parker, robotics teacher at MLMS. 

“Many of my robotics students love working with their hands and enjoy figuring out difficult mechanical concepts," Mr. Parker said.  “Students who may not be 'superstar scholars' in other subject areas can take this class and be head and shoulders above their peers" in STEM-related learning. 

This semester, seventh- and eighth-graders at MLMS have deciphered contraptions such as chain drivers, bevel gears, multimeters and worm gears.  They will also learn coding programs such as Java, Python, C, RobotC, and Blockly.  

*  *  * 

A chat with Marco in Robotics 7: 

What are you doing? (He is assembling something while looking intently at his Chromebook): 

“I am looking at the Project Lead the Way website.  It shows the steps in assembling a worm gear.  I simply watch and follow the steps."  

What is your favorite thing about this class? 

“I enjoy discussing robotics and engineering with my friends." 

*  *  * 

Students interviewed for this story showed knowledge, engagement, enthusiasm and passion for their coursework.  Several described their assignments as fun. 

Manuel, an eighth-grader, said he especially enjoyed making a Clawbot at the end of Robotics 7: Students, working in a group, designed a remote-controlled robot to pick up items with its claw, he said.  “I want to be a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) member," Manuel continued.  They program SWAT robots that use cameras like a Clawbot.  This is stuff I will use." 

Mr. Parker said his favorite aspect of teaching robotics is watching students' growth and learning over time. 

“At the start of Robotics 7 I begin the class by teaching how to tighten a bolt or screw in a screw.  We start at the basics: righty-tighty and lefty-loosey.  By the end of the year students are working cooperatively and creating their own designs," he said.  “They incorporate concepts from all classes including history, mathematics, language and communication, and scientific principles."    

*  *  * 

A chat with Anthony in Robotics 8: 

What are you doing today? 

“We are measuring the voltage going through a generator." 

Did you take Robotics 7? 

“Yes!  The best part of last year was building a drag racer." 

Why did you sign up for Robotics 8 after Robotics 7? 

“I wanted a class that would be even more challenging."  

What classes do you want to take in high school? 

“I definitely want to take robotics or engineering.  When I grow up I want to be an engineer." 

*  *  * 

Mira Loma Middle School introduced robotics and Project Lead the Way four years ago.  “Our principal asked for volunteers to teach the course and I raised my hand," Mr. Parker said. ​​​

​The classes are so popular that 60 students typically apply for 30 slots in Robotics 7, which at MLMS incorporates automation robotics and design in modeling.  Robotics 8 covers the magic of electrons, flight and space, and energy and the environment.  Mission Middle School also offers courses in modeling (testing design ideas to control the motion of machines) and design, Mr. Parker said.   

The courses provide an onramp to high school Career and Technical Education courses in several of California's 15 career pathways, including engineering, transportation, and manufacturing and product design.​

 MLMS robotics students often advance to the Jurupa Valley High School Innovation Center, which opened in 2017 with cutting-edge STEM equipment.  Two JVHS juniors, Leah and Ryan,  earned second place in Riverside County at a recent science fair after building a robot that cleans up garbage.  Mr. Parker said: “They attributed much of their success to the two classes they took here at Mira Loma Middle School." 

Diego, a student in Robotics 7, said, “I am hoping to take these classes in eighth grade and all the way through high school.  Eventually I want to be an engineer and do these projects on a bigger scale." 

*  *  *  

A chat with Jesus in Robotics 7:  

Why did you take this class? 

“I like to build things and work on projects.  … I like to take things apart to see how they work." 

Do you enjoy this class? 

“Yes, I really like this class!  I look forward to building a battle bot which is a robot that fights other robots.  That is the final project in this class after we build a pull toy and dragster." 

Are you planning on taking Robotics 8? 

“Yes!  I am considering being an engineer.  I want to build something that makes the future better." 

*  *  * 

To keep pace with student demand going forward, educators hope to add more sections of the two robotics courses, said Mr. Parker. 

“Project Lead the Way opens doors and opportunities," the teacher said.  “Students learn in different ways and Robotics 7 and Robotics 8 provide a collaborative, hands-on approach to learning that is also a terrific segue to STEM college and career opportunities."​