Students took turns walking around the cafeteria of Crone Middle School in Naperville last week with a six-legged creature at the end of a leash.
When a student would turn a different direction, the hexapod followed. When the student stopped pulling on the leash, the robot’s legs would stop moving.
While not as warm and cuddly as a puppy, parents might find this pet easy to maintain, and it won’t have accidents in the house.
The hexapod was just one of the robots that captivated students’ interest Thursday to conclude Summer STEAM Team, a summer version of Crone’s after-school program that promotes student interest in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
For the past two weeks students engaged in a variety of activities, including green screen technology, three-dimensional printing, turning old books into journals and art projects, and programming.
Kyle Granat, a hardware engineering and outreach coordinator at Trossen Robotics in Downers Grove, brought a handful of robotic kits his company sells to inspire kids to become masters of technology.
Beyond just computers and smart phones, electronic circuitry is involved in people’s everyday lives through appliances, lighting and smart-grid utilities. Knowing how to fix a computer or to program will be a necessary skill, he said.
“I would like to think that in the future we will all be engineers in some way,” Granat said.
Electronic circuitry even can be incorporated into art and clothing, said Kat Granat, owner of K. Kat Fine Arts.
Kat showed students how the same conventional electronics incorporated into Kyle’s robots can be used in the materials she uses in her art.
The artist walked students through the process of sewing a basic circuit onto a small square of fabric so the fabric would light up with tiny LED lights.
Kat works in mixed media, creating jewelry and lighted embroidery works. Her line of embroidery pieces depicts the various constellations where the LED lights are the stars and the thread gives the outline of the character.
“I have a great deal of wonder about the universe,” she said.
She said she prefers art that interacts with people or art that can be touched.
Beyond the art aspects, she told students how soft circuitry can be incorporated into lighted shoes, jewelry or other clothing.
One idea that struck a chord with the kids was the stealth hoodie or jackets that can turn off televisions.
Kat explained how a simple circuit and LED lights stitched in a hoodie or jacket can become a TV remote control that will turn off a television when a metal zipper is unzipped.
Sandra Knight, STEAM Team co-coach, said she was thrilled by the turnout for the summer program. She was particularly excited at the number of girls in attendance. On the final day, a quick survey of the kids in attendance showed that more than half of the participants were girls.
“Isn’t this great,” she said.
Mary Yockey, library media center director and STEAM Team co-coach, said getting Kyle and Kat to visit the school came as a bit of a lark.
Yockey said she was looking to purchase robotic supplies from a local company when she came across Trossen Robotics. It was through the ordering process that Kyle said he and Kat would be willing to stop by and demonstrate what they do every day.
Crone Middle School, which is a part of Indian Prairie School District 204, will continue its after-school STEAM Team program in the fall.Tags: Crone Middle School, Indian Prairie School District 204