Hope Stanley, an eighth-grader at Travis Vanguard Academy in Dallas, says she’s not the most tech-savvy student at her school. But that may change after she learned to program using our new educational robot.
“This was really easy and it was actually really fun,” she said.
Hope was part of a group of middle-school students who were among the first in the world to get their hands on the TI-Innovator™ Rover, which helps make connections across math, science and engineering and demonstrates that learning to program can be fun. Students write programs using the TI graphing calculator they already use in math and science class to make Rover do things like draw, crash or even dance.
“I learned how to code and program, which I have never done, and it’s super exciting, as it may be a new career option in the future,” said Sarah Zeko, a seventh-grader at the school. “I love math, and I always thought I would do math in college, but didn’t think I’d ever do coding or programming until today.”
By the end of class at Travis Vanguard Academy, students had Rover moving and grooving to music.
“If I were a teacher, I would give Rover a 100 and some bonus points,” said sixth-grader Emma Blackburn. “It was really interactive and I had a lot of fun.”
That’s music to the ears of Peter Balyta, president of TI Education Technology and champion of getting more students interested in pursuing STEM degrees.
“We created Rover as an easy on-ramp to robotics, to help all kids see that coding and the basics of engineering can be easy to learn and fun,” Peter said. “I’d say: ‘Mission accomplished.’”
For its brain, Rover uses our TI-Innovator Hub, which is based on our company’s LaunchPad™ technology – the same technology engineers use to design innovative products. Rover connects to the TI-Innovator Hub and either a TI-84 Plus CE or TI-Nspire™ CX graphing calculator and helps drive interest and curiosity in STEM subjects.
Putting math into motion
The Education Technology team, which includes many former educators, began working on Rover in late 2016, soliciting feedback from teachers and students about how the robotic vehicle could enhance classroom learning. During pilot testing, students particularly liked using their calculator to see Rover and math in motion. Teachers loved that they could use Rover to demonstrate abstract concepts that students typically only experience while looking at graphs or solving equations.
“Rover helps bring robotics to life for students,” said TIer Curtis Brown, a former math teacher who helped design the lessons and programs for teachers. “When students see it in action, they want to know how to make it work.”
This past summer, students from Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas got to take Rover for a test drive and provide feedback to the team. Some students said they got so wrapped up figuring out how to make Rover move that they forgot they were doing math.
“Normally, I’m really distracted when it comes to math, but this was fun enough for me to pay attention,” said Zamantha Romero, a freshman at Sunset High School in Dallas.
Making advanced math concepts, like systems of equations, more fun and more accessible to students is one of the goals for Rover.
“If a student thinks class is interesting and is eager to come back the next day and do more, that’s what every teacher wants,” said Fred Fotsch, STEM education manager for our company. “It can open a door for math, science and robotics that wasn’t as open before.”
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