Lego Robotics transforms student learning at Parkes Christian School

While some students in Parkes are learning grammar or their 12 times table, there are a handful of others who are programming robots.

Parkes Christian School is one of only two schools in the country that are listed in the Google Transformation Program.

And within the four walls of one of its classrooms, there are some extraordinary projects in the making.

Students from as young as Year 5 and with no knowledge of programming are part of the program that uses Lego Robotics.

Equipped with toys purchased from shops, students are programming Mbots to fight other robots, playing Lego guitars, creating a keyboard out of fruit, and programming Ez-bots to perform and dance to their favourite songs and robots that can solve the rubix cube.

Year 12 students have programmed an automated piano using Lego Robotics, with the plan of having a student play their own piano alongside the automated one.

They will also program a book reader that takes a photo, turns the page and reads it.

The Google program was launched at the Christian School a year and a half ago, and is spearheaded by IT teacher Clarence Goh.

Mr Goh, who’s been working at the school for three years, is also the Google innovator and trainer for the region.

“Students slowly develop the knowledge and skills of programming,” he said.

“It’s about transforming students’ lives and improving learning.

“Most importantly we are teaching them why they are learning these skills.”

The classroom’s biggest project is its Lego City IOT (Internet of Things).

All students from all years are involved in creating the city, built out of Lego and controlled by the internet.

Even Year 5 student Aaron O’Rourke has been assigned the responsibility of programming the city’s elevator – that’s capable of lifting up to 100 kilograms – using the EV3 gearing system.

“The city is programmed with Intelligent blocks which are connected to Google and voice activation controls the city through Wi-Fi,” Mr Goh said.

Year 9 students Brayden Varcoe and Caleb Hill are the brains behind the EV3 Lego Mindstorms that solves the rubix cube.

The EV3 works by scanning each of the colours into its system, then with its Lego arm and tray that spins, it gets to work to solve the puzzle.

Amazingly the duo built the robot in Year 7.

It took the duo two months to build and six months to a year to program and problem solve.

From time to time, they still run into problems but both are loving that they are still playing with the project two years later.

Year 6 student Bellah Hewett has helped with the programming of the banana keyboard, which uses a device called Makey Makey.

Each key is wired from a laptop to a banana or any other fruit that’s used, and sound is generated as soon as a student touches the banana.

“Oranges are better than bananas,” Bellah said.

Mr Goh added – “because they have more juice, which conducts electricity better”.

Mr Goh’s main aim has been to enter the Young ICT Explorers competition, held in Sydney on August 11.

Last week he was excited to reveal that two of the school’s Lego Robotics projects have been selected.

However due to the logistics and cost, Mr Goh has arranged with the organisers to showcase their projects virtually.

“We will submit a video of each product to the organisers in place of our attendance,” he said.

This will be the school’s first time participating in the competition.

In the meantime, HSC students displayed their major works to the school community last Tuesday and students will showcase their projects at the Parkes Show at the end of the month.