The robots are coming

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Marshall County kids will soon have the opportunity to learn programming with the help of robots like the two pictured here at left. The Marshall County Memorial Library received a grant from two state departments to purchase three of the robots, which youngsters will learn to program during library programs aimed at broadening science education.
Photo courtesy of Finch Robotics

Robots are taking over Marshall County.

The Marshall County Memorial Library received a grant from the Tennessee State Library and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to expand their programs in STEM subjects.

Part of the funds will be used to purchase Finch robots, developed by the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, specifically designed to teach elementary children about computer programming.

“If you start them really young, it can really help prepare them at a high school level,” said MCML’s Laura Smith, who oversees many of the library programs and also has a degree in engineering.

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs have been identified as key subjects for students to understand in a rapidly changing world.

“The STEM industry is growing, and even if you don’t have an engineering degree, almost all jobs are going to be affiliated with robotics at some point,” Smith said. “Just knowing how to think through things—it’s the thought process that is most important.”

Just over a little over a year ago, Marshall County Memorial Library implemented some STEM learning programs specifically for the homeschool students in the county.

Recently, the library has expanded its program to Westhills Elementary School. Once a month, the after-school program of 15 kids meet and work on projects focused on STEM learning.

Smith explained how the projects relate to STEM learning by creating a way for younger kids to learn creatively. At one of the meetings, one of the projects was geared to teach students coding by making a necklace out of binary code. In the past, students have also created paper circuits. According to Smith, she definitely thinks it’s an effective rewarding hands-on experience.

Smith explained that Marshall County’s library is definitely evolving.

“We offer more than just books to the community,” she said.

Modern libraries strive to offer additional educational and entertainment resources to the communities they serve.

In support of STEM programming,the grant will be used for three Finch robots and a new 3D printer for student projects, as well as other resources.