The Coast News Group
From left are Max, Sayla, Ben, Sophia and Henry, second-grade students at Poinsettia Elementary School working on building a rocket ship to the moon as part of the Carlsbad Unified School District’s robotics program, funded by the Carlsbad Educational Foundation, for all second graders in the district. Steve Puterski photo

Robotics a hit with CUSD 2nd graders

CARLSBAD — There’s no getting around robotics for the Carlsbad Unified School District.

The drive for more technology and routes to spur creative thinking are just two reasons the district is all-in on robotics.

And three weeks ago, the district rolled out its second-grade robotics program, thanks to a $36,000 grant from the Carlsbad Educational Foundation. Now, all second-graders in the district will participate in the program.

“We think second grade is the perfect time to start exposing students to robotics, design thinking and even some elementary coding,” Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill said. “It was probably a year’s worth of planning on it.”

Over the past several years, Carlsbad Unified has invested heavily in robotics, but not just for its success in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), he said. Robotics is a way to get students excited about learning through projects, competitions and hands-on learning.

From left are second-grade students Dhanna and Alex, teacher Brooke Williamson, and students Shayaan, Kae’anu and Savannah working in their robotics program to get a ship to the moon. The Carlsbad Unified School District rolled out its robotics program, funded by the Carlsbad Educational Foundation, for all second graders in the district. Steve Puterski

Churchill said robotics has also provided skills for other areas such as language, communication, teamwork, problem solving and more.

The district piloted the program last year in one classroom at each elementary school to see if it would fit. And since robotics was a hit, Carlsbad Educational Foundation bankrolled the funds and also partnered with Legoland for a fundraiser on March 2, for discounted tickets with the proceeds benefiting the second-grade program.

As for the program, the curriculum is a six-week course for each class in two sessions, with four schools in the current period and the other five coming in several weeks.

“Any time you can get kids excited about science and math, and then at the same time it’s helping develop their language skills, their communication skills, their collaboration skills, it’s win-win,” Churchill said. “I would call this truly cross-curricular and touching so many more areas than just math or science.”

In Brooke Williamson’s second-grade class at Poinsettia Elementary School, her students have a big mission as they are to build a rocket ship to the moon.

She has her students close their eyes and imagine what it would be like on the moon.

But the big part is what would they take. Using Legos as part of their first design, students showed off water, food, plants, storage units, a magnifying glass, an iPad and three bags of Hot Cheetos.

Her class was the pilot program last year, and this year her students are thrilled to work in teams to solve problems. Williamson said the program teaches teamwork, which shows as she assigns each of four to five students responsibilities within the group.

Some are builders and others work in tech (on the computer following the build instructions), for example.

The curriculum is basic as the kids begin to learn the foundations of engineering, coding and robotics. Still, the enthusiasm is contagious, Williamson said, as the students got a taste after a field trip to Legoland and attend a robotics class.

“I think that really got them excited,” Williamson said. “We are using different elements of Legos to problem solve and use technology to engineer something. Each session, they will have to problem solve or adapt.”