Deakin science students build robots with young learners

Media release
20 September 2017

Geelong East Primary School students have become some of Deakin's youngest learners, thanks to a special program linking the University's science undergraduates with young scholars to help facilitate a passion for ongoing learning.

The students are learning about robotics and coding as part of the Deakin Engagement and Access Program, which supports primary and secondary schools in areas underrepresented in higher education.

The program, led by Deakin's Equity and Diversity unit, works with more than 30 schools across Geelong, Melbourne and the broader Barwon South West Region.

Equity and Diversity Social Work Student Melissa Harries said the current cohort of almost 100 Geelong East grade 5 and 6 students was working with Deakin third-year science students Mark Larkins and Naima Hassen to build and program their own Lego robots across eight sessions.

Ms Harries said she was impressed with how quickly the primary schoolers embraced the project.

"It has been incredible to watch the students build and code their robots with such enthusiasm and ease, they should be so proud of their success," she said.

"Every student, regardless of their experience in robotics or coding, engaged in the project - they showed further skills in communication and team work as they worked effectively in small groups, and their determination to find a result through trial and error has been very impressive."

Ms Harries said DEAP worked with students from grade 3 to year 12, delivering coordinated activities and events designed to promote self-efficacy and literacy at the primary level, and then focusing on students' educational aspirations and pathways into higher education at the secondary level.

The current project has been a collaboration between DEAP, Deakin University's Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment, Geelong East PS, and the Ardoch Youth Foundation.

The Ardoch Youth Foundation, a children's education charity with offices in Corio, Geelong, contributed to the project through their donation of LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits funded through the Percy Baxter Charitable Trust.

"This project has also afforded Deakin Community Science Project unit students Mark and Naima the opportunity to share their knowledge in their field of study with a very captivated audience, supporting their own professional and skill development," Ms Harries said.

Geelong East PS grade 5/6 teacher Candice Rogers said the program provided her students with "essential 21st century skills as they go forward to high school".

"Geelong East PS is using 21st century learning tasks to build literacy and team work skills using advanced robotic technology and coding," Ms Rogers said.

"This partnership with Deakin University has provided an opportunity for the students to put their Lego knowledge to practice and work through different robots and coding programs."

The budding roboticists at Geelong East PS toured the site of some of Geelong's most impressive technological breakthroughs this month, with a recent excursion to Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus.

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