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Hands On Learning to Troy Schools

posted Jul 23, 2011, 1:16 PM by Marc Berthoud   [ updated Jan 4, 2012, 10:53 AM by mcorp@starsatyerkes.net ]
By MARIANNE EISENBRANDT For Sun-Times Media

JOLIET -- Who says science and math can't be exciting as well as fun?

Interested Troy School District students in grades 6-8 had an opportunity recently to participate in a project funded through ExxonMobil.

Troy Middle School students spent hours on their carnival-themed projects (rotisserie swings, roller coaster, pendulum ride, etc.) while the William B. Orenic Intermediate School students were kept busy building three robotic arms.

Michael Portwood, Troy Middle School assistant principal, said in wanting to support surrounding communities, ExxonMobil has created a grant called Shoot for the A's, made possible by investors and supporters interested in giving back to area schools.

"Recognizing the importance of science and math, Exxon has awarded the funds to schools providing interest-based opportunities for students in these curricular areas," he explained.

Portwood said students have worked long and hard to see their ideas and questions in science and math arrive at solutions and a finished product.

The students had an opportunity to display their projects at the Four Rivers Environmental Center in an evening presentation for supporters, students and their families also coordinated by ExxonMobil.

"The goal of the project was to bring about an understanding of how math and science are connected (with) everyday things, and the important role they play in the innovation we see around us," Portwood said.

Students learned about force, momentum and the strategies for calculating these quantities. They also gained some practice in articulating what they learned to the public.

Seventh- and eighth-grade students were led by teachers Michelle Wilkes, Kelly Phelps, Tenleigh Ayers, Jeremy Huff and Jarrod Russotto. Students involved in the project included Alex Doane, Ebot Gwanulla, Kyle Henderson, Homero Chavero, Courtney Flynn, Tyler Kodrick, Kyle Garner, Omar Abdel-Hadi, Connor Freeman, Jacob Yballa, Michael Selenis, Dylan Eigenheer, Selena Muniz, Eduardo Fuentes, Matt Darr, Prachi Patel and Victoriana Johnson.

The Orenic School sixth-graders built three robotic arms that used electric motors and hydraulics. They also used the Internet to program robotic telescopes in Chile to take images of distant nebulae in the Milky Way and galaxies millions of light years away.

Team Robotics sponsor Margie Corp said her students developed many skills in problem solving and critical thinking.

Student team member Miguel Gutierrez was eager to discuss the construction of his robot arm and the images he took with the telescope in Chile. "The base was put on wrong and we had to study the diagrams to fix it. The images we took with the telescopes looked so professional," Miguel said.

Sixth-grade students Elijah Lee and Jake Johnson worked together on their robot they named "JJ" while Paige Sleigher and Andrianna Chaplin constructed a robot named TBot2.

Also working on the robotic arms project were students Katie Sobun, Nick Pedraza, Tim Wasilewski, Josh Merriman and Mayra Torres.

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