California League of Educators
Educator spotlight: STEM obstacle course
Updated: Jul 12, 2022
By Patricia Murphy
Science & Robotics Teacher,
Healdsburg Jr. High
I love giving my students opportunities to try something new, especially in robotics class. Every day is a chance to learn, fail, try again, and explore. Students are constantly trying new things with their robot programming and sharing their successes with their classmates. A typical day in robotics class includes a team taking apart and rebuilding their robot from scratch, another team helping students program a sensor, and multiple teams working through struggles as they attempt to complete their robot challenges around the classroom. Failing is expected in our classroom and students embrace that.
I was especially excited this past year when my students wanted sturdy and permanent obstacle courses for their robotics engineering projects. I decided to turn this into a class project rather than a weekend project for me. I asked my students to design what they wanted and then I brought in the supplies, tools, and volunteer maker, Mr. Bryan Murphy. We discussed safety and every student learned how to use a handsaw and power drill. Then each team jumped in and planned, measured, cut, and created their vision.
Their obstacle courses are being used every day by three engineering classes. Students take much better care of their obstacle course boxes than other materials because they have a sense of ownership over them. They even got to sign the bottom of their obstacle boxes as the building engineers. Allowing students to have a voice and power in their education is empowering and exciting and something I strive to provide every day.