“Oh! Oh! I have an idea,” Angelito Young, a second- grader at Jefferson Elementary School exclaimed Friday morning.
She quickly rearranged a series of plastic and metal cubes in a specific order, then held her hand an inch or so above them.
As if by magic, the train of cubes rolled across the table.
That’s the point of Cubelets, robotic blocks that teach engineering, design and problem solving. The blocks are a useful tool in lessons on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
“We want all students to have the opportunity to learn STEM skills, and we especially want to provide those opportunities for kids who are blind or low vision,” said John Harding, superintendent for the Kansas State School for the Blind.
The Kansas City-based school for the blind often shares its programs with other school districts.
School officials traveled to Jefferson Friday morning to work with second-graders, in cooperation with Greenbush. Some, but not all, of the students who participated have low vision or special needs.
The students learned how to use robotic games and equipment to promote creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork and other skills.
For example, one group played with Sphero, a colorful ball that can be controlled using an electronic tablet. Students learned how to guide the ball using controls on the tablet. Then, one student closed her eyes while another gave her instructions — left, right, up, down — to direct the ball into a goal.
Other students used a special robot, Ozobot, that will follow a path — any path you can draw.
Student Jase Emerson drew a complicated path for his Ozobot, and asked Juie Ituarte, one of the staff members with KSSB, if she thought it would work.
“We can try it and see what happens,” she said.
The robot made those difficult turns with no problem.
Another station introduced Braille to students, with special devices that allow students to type in Braille and have words appear on a tablet. That technology allows blind students to send homework or other documents to teachers.
The goal is to empower all students, Harding said. It teaches students with disabilities they can create and achieve great things, and it teaches other students to respect the contributions of everyone, he said.