by April Curci, Class of 2013
In difficult economic times, many schools are cutting programs that benefit gifted students. As a result, Phoenix Country Day School’s Project Excellence, one of the signature community outreach programs of PCDS, is playing a more important role than ever. Started in 1987, this award-winning program invites gifted students from inner-city schools to our campus for academic enrichment. Besides attending a five-week summer program, Project Excellence Scholars attend several Saturday workshops during the school year.
Earlier this year, a group of sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students attended a Lego Robotics workshop hosted by Phoenix Country Day’s very own Lego Robotics team (Middle School) and Blue Tide Robotics team (Upper School). During the workshop, students worked on creating a robot arm, attaching it to a chassis, programming it with special software, and testing it out. The students showed interest in their task and made progress during their work time. One Project Excellence student even said, “This is the best and most fun workshop we have had yet. The people [robotics team members] are really helpful and want us to learn how to build robots.”
During the session, students toured the Blue Tide Robotics team’s workshop, watched the members build their FRC (First Robotics Competition) robot, and asked questions. The students seemed so amazed at what can be made out of metal pieces and by using logic. Several students were very attentive to the physics part of building and immediately started inquiring about our design concepts.
Observing these students explore robotics for the first time was inspiring. I felt I could almost see their brains discovering what they had to do to improve their robot. When they came across an error, they strived to overcome the obstacle. The pure interest and enthusiasm that the students showed also was inspiring. Anyone present at the workshop would have agreed that this was a truly successful learning experience. As a robotics team member, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to host Project Excellence students again and share more of what our team has learned about building and competing in robotics.
Blue Tide team member Joe Schornak (back, left) and Lego Robotics team member Jason Greenfield (back, right) with Scholars