By CHRISTIAN MONTERROSA Reporter
Tasked with the important responsibility of molding the minds of tomorrow, elementary schools often assign students projects that could influence their paths forever. Turkeys drawn from hand outlines might help a child discover their passion for art, or a house built from popsicle sticks could inspire the Frank Gehry of tomorrow.
And at Marquez Charter Elementary School, teachers, wanting to get a jump on inspiring the next generation, have started a robotics program.
Headed by science teacher Akiko Arevalo, close to a dozen students gathered last year to build robots, working on their projects every day during recess and lunch breaks.
Since then, the program has proven successful, taking students to the VEX IQ Challenge, a national competition organized by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation that scores student built robots based off of skills performed and awards the highest score.
For students like Aiden Pierce, the program serves as an outlet for all of his science and technology interests, and builds skills from them.
“I think it’s amazing that [a robotics program] is available at his school,” said Aiden’s father, Seth Pierce, who expressed nothing but gratitude for Arevalo and the teachers at Marquez who invest so much of their personal time to make the program happen.
“The kids are really loving it,” Pierce added. “They spend their recess time and lunch time working on their robots, perfecting them and engineering them, making them better and practicing for the tournaments.”
The Marquez Yellow and Blue teams have qualified for the state championship in early March and nationals in Iowa for being the highest scoring team in a feeder competition and winning best design and the best engineering notebook award.
“I cannot commend the teaching team enough,” Pierce said. “They are spending a lot of their own time working with the kids and attending weekend events … The kids are amazing, but the teachers no less so.”