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Sanding, drilling, programing and solving physics problems are all in a hard day’s work in Mr. Gabbitas’ Robotics 2 class.
In the back of the classroom there is an arena with weights, platforms, targets and balls. The weights can be flipped over to be either red or blue, the balls can be thrown at the targets and the platforms can be occupied by the best climber. Throughout the semester, students in Mr. Gabbitas’ class are creating robots to accomplish these tasks.. Each weight that is flipped to the team’s color gives points, each target that is hit gives points and whoever remains on the platforms at the end of the round will get points in their end of the semester competition. The team with the most points wins the recognition of best engineered robot.
In order for their robots to be the best they can be, students have to perform calculations and tinker with their designs until the robot’s mechanics complete the proper functions. In the Robotics 1 class, Mr Gabbitas taught the students how to do program basic functions into a “LEGO” computer. The computer can cause each specified action to start and stop. The students were given basic tasks that slowly built up to performing in the arena. After the class had built their basic machines, Mr. Gabbitas asked them to start over and see how they could improve their robots in the next class: Robotics 2. With little instruction from the teacher, students went to work, creating modifications that could improve their robot’s performance.
Mr. Gabbitas (or as his students call him Dr. G) believes that engineering is more about trial and error than about receiving exact instructions. He wanted the students to find out themselves how understanding basic physics principles can translate to real results. As these students continue in their education, and some of them go on to become engineers, knowing that there may not already be solutions to problems will help open their minds to different possibilities and find better ways to solve some of the world’s toughest issues.