The future is now at the recently established Hawke’s Bay Schools Trades Academy, where students have been designing and creating robots from scratch that can be used to play softball.
The Eastern Institute of Technology’s (EIT) new Level 3 computer technology programme tasks students with every science fiction fanatic’s dream of designing and building robots from scratch. The students control the robots as softball ‘players’ in an arena.
The trades academy programme was rolled out late last year and senior IT lecturer Istvan Lengyel says the aim is to support high schools with their senior curriculum.
“It could be a launch pad for studying computing or media design at tertiary level and potentially also engineering.”
Lengyel has been working with students across the Hawke’s Bay region in order to generate interest in programming and electronics.
“It’s learning in a fun, engaging and practical environment,” he says.
“The emphasis for this new offering is on programming and introducing senior school students to robotics control, media design and prototyping.”
The refurbished classroom, which serves as a sort of base of operations, is loaded with engaging technology for the students to use. At the ready are 10 computer stations, 3D printers, a computer numerical control (CNC) cutting machine and various parts and pieces for the students to experiment with when building their robots.
While the students get to enjoy a unique form of creativity and entertainment, the class is also academically rewarding. Students are afforded the opportunity to earn NCEA Level 3 credits, which are also valid towards University Entrance.
Lengyel thinks the class provides a unique and valuable learning experience that differs from standard teaching curriculum.
“It’s a quite hands-on learning experience and not just about textbooks. The content varies from week to week,” he says.
“Most recently the students, working in groups, constructed a clawbot – the platform and structural mechanism for their robotic projects. They then had to identify any structural issues and improve on the design.”
Lengyel is hopeful that many of the students will opt to proceed into higher level study at an undergraduate level.