They were interesting looking creatures: small robots with one round orb with a single eyeball place on top of a triad of orbs. About six inches high and seven inches wide, they respond to programmed controls stopping and turning on a dime to avoid obstacles.
Called a “Dash” robot, they look like futuristic pets.
Three of these robots and their students formed the Wonder League Robotics Parade that traveled the halls of Willow Elementary School in Grantsville on Wednesday morning.
The Wonder League is an early morning robotics program that is part of Willow Elementary’s science, technology, engineering, and math program, according to Angie Gillette, Willow Elementary principal.
“We’re celebrating the end of the Wonder League season and our team of students that have earned a place in the national finals for the Wonder League Robotics competition,” Gillette said. “It’s an opportunity for them to showcase their work for the whole school.”
Willow Elementary has 18 students involved in the robotics program, according to Robyn Warner, the school’s computer lab aide who serves as the advisor to the Wonder League.
The Wonder League is a program of the San Mateo, California-based Wonder Workshop, a company that sells Dash and Dot robots along with a curriculum designed to teach robotics, coding, and critical thinking skills to students age 6 – 13. Wonder Workshop also hosts an online competition program.
The Dash robots are the small robots that consist of four orbs, like the ones that paraded down Willow Elementary’s halls. Dot robots are even smaller. They are one orb in size.
The Dash robots are programmable and come with infrared receivers and transmitters, dual motors for head pan and tilt, proximity sensors, bluetooth capability, microphones and speakers, on board processors, and two powered wheels.
The robots are controlled from a tablet computer using either and app or a control pad program.
Willow Elementary has 15 Dash and 15 Dot robots. They were purchased using trust lands funds with the support of the school’s community council, for the school’s STEM program, according to Gillette.
During the year, the Wonder League students have participated in various online competitions where they receive instructions online. Their performance is recorded and sent to Wonder Workshop where they are scored.
This year’s competitions included one where a program was downloaded that gave the robots instructions on how to navigate obstacles on a grid. The students had to observe the reaction of the robots as they placed obstacles in a robot’s path and determine where to place the obstacles to get the robots to travel from one end of the grid to the right area on the other end of the grid.
In another competition students taped a craft stick to the head of a robot and had to guide the robot through a series of objects, touching the objects with the stick.
According to Wonder Workshop 35,000 students from 69 countries participate in the online competition. One team of three students from Willow Elementary earned a place in the invitation finals that starts March 1.
“We learned how to program the robots and make them work, but most important we learn teamwork,” said Gates Washburn, a sixth-grade student at Willow Elementary and a member of the invitational team.