The rollout of robotics programming for McCulloch Intermediate and Highland Park Middle schools began full STEAM ahead this fall, and district officials say they plan to continue to expand opportunities for students.
Highland Park High School already had a robotics program in place when HPISD officials announced in the spring of 2021 plans to offer younger grade levels comprehensive robotics with classroom and extracurricular activities in engineering and coding.
A $10,000 gift from the Park Cities Talented and Gifted (PC-TAG) parent organization helped support the efforts to launch the program in the fall.
Most recently, HPMS launched a robotics club for seventh and eighth-graders, and Jean Streepey, STEAM instructional coach for MIS and HPMS said the district plans to offer a robotics club for fifth and sixth graders soon.
As part of the club, students learn about coding, robot building, and design.
“The after-school program does really well,” HPMS principal Dr. Chris Miller said. “What’s really neat is seeing our high school kids come over here – our seventh and eighth graders really do look up to them – and being able to see their excitement that we’re doing this at such an early age.”
Eighth-grader Luke Bodwell said he’s excited to learn more about the coding aspect of robotics.
“After we come back from Thanksgiving break, we’ll really dive more into the coding aspect of these robots because we spent the past couple of weeks working on building them,” Bodwell said.
Miller said he hopes the program shows MIS and HPMS students the options available for them in high school and beyond.
“It’s really a 5-12 program is what it’s turned into, and that’s what’s really exciting. It gets the kids connected to what could be robotics 1 and 2 in high school,” he said.
Eighth-grader Dev Shah said his sister is part of the high school robotics team.
“I know my sister does robotics in high school, so I wanted a middle school one,” Shah said. “I think we plan on doing some competitions between us, and maybe if we get … advanced enough and we get enough people, then we could possibly do it with other schools.”
Streepey said the expansion of robotics programming in the district is part of efforts to bring “STEAM for all students.”
“We want everyone to have this experience, so if they like it, they have a path forward,” she said. “I think the other thing that makes us different is that we have fifth through eighth graders all in one building. That’s a huge difference for us. They come in as 10-year-olds, and they leave us ready for high school, and I think these are the years where we create dreams.”