Grant will put LEGO robots in all Fayette County elementary schools

jwarren@herald-leader.comJanuary 14, 2013 

Robots soon will be invading Fayette County elementary schools.

Xerox Corp. gave Fayette County Public Schools $35,000 on Monday to place three small electronic robots in each of the district's 34 elementary schools as new-wave learning tools.

Students will learn how to assemble the little robots, created by LEGO, and then program them to perform various tasks. The idea is that kids will learn basic math and science while they're having fun playing with the machines, developing skills they can build on as they move to middle and high school.

The robots, which come in kit form, also may be used in school robotics competitions.

District officials said the overall goal was to interest more Fayette students in science, engineering, math and technology — fields in which many of tomorrow's best-paying careers will be found.

The grant was announced Monday at Garden Springs Elementary School, which already uses LEGO robots in an extracurricular program and one fourth-grade class.

About 20 Fayette elementary schools use robots through the district's Student Technology Leadership Program. But thanks to the Xerox grant, more students will be able to participate at every elementary school across the district, officials said.

Fayette County schools started holding summer robotics camps for fourth-graders about four years ago, with help from the Lexington Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Nearly 200 students and 27 schools participated last year.

"The magic is that the kids learn some geometry; they learn some trig; they learn some programming; they learn a little mechanical engineering," said Jack McKinney, education outreach chairman for the engineers group. "When they get to high school, they're never going to ask, 'Why do I have to take geometry? Why do I have to take algebra?' They'll already know the answer."

Connie Harvey, a group president with Xerox, presented the grant money.

"Our mission is to make it fun," she said. "The things kids are learning in these classes and camps truly are science and math, in a way you can really apply and have fun."

Robotics already is stimulating new interest in learning among boys and girls at Garden Springs, principal Jimmy Brehm said.

"When we're able to take something like robots, put them in the hands of a kid who would otherwise never have that opportunity and say you can do this, ... that's where our excitement is," Brehm said. "That's what school is supposed to be about."

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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