Middle school students build robots out of Legos for National Robotics Week

Students from Thomas Jefferson Middle School worked to write code that would make a robot operate on its own.

“The project we are working on today is making a robot out of Legos. Our team’s approach was to try and use Bluetooth to connect it,” said student Anahis Valerio.

The robotics event was held at one of Amazon’s fulfillment centers where engineers from the company mentored the kids for the day.

“The goal is to expose our students to STEM-related careers, for them to see humans and robots working together. Our students have had experience with tech in school so it is a great opportunity for our students to see it in real life setting with Amazon,” said assistant principal Renu Mendiratta.

The engineers helped the kids work through their design kinks, but they also talked to them and answered questions about their careers. For students pursuing STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — mentorship can make a big difference, says Rainy Shukla.

“As a former engineer myself, I was at the age of these kids and I truly wish I had mentors who could share their experience of how they took the path of being in the STEM education and what it takes to be a scientist or an engineer because that’s their future,” said Shukla, Amazon assistant general manager.

“We got help from our mentor. Otherwise, we could have never done it. We could have never figured out what part was which,” said student Tanush Kulkarni.

Most of the kids said they needed their mentor’s help to complete the project, but Shukla says the learning went both ways.

“We worked on these robots ourselves before as a practice and I just walked around and realized that these kids have enhanced these robots three times more than what we created as basic models. And they are outsmarting us, so it’s super cool to see,” said Shukla.

“The earlier you expose the kids to these technology-based careers, they’re more open to it, they have more exposure to it, and then they definitely can bring it to a higher level by the time they go to middle school and high school,” said Mendiratta.

“I wanted to be like an engineer or computer programmer,” said Woodrow Wilson Middle School student Vishwa Muthuraman, “because I’ve seen my parents do it and I’ve seen how hard they work and I like that.”

As technology changes, the jobs will too. But educators say the skills students are learning will lay the foundation for their success in the future.

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