GALVESTON — A new class at Ambassadors Preparatory Academy aims to create robots and new skills in problem solving with a future goal of competing in peaceful offshoots of robot wars.

The robots, wheeled gadgets with crane-like arms to pick up objects, are being assembled by gifted and talented students at the academy, 5001 Avenue U, under the guidance of Rex Rivera and Lisa Keeler. 

“It boosts their creativity and ability to work in a group together,” Rivera said. “I like the way students are talking to each other, coordinating. I see the learning on the part of the student and I am learning myself.”

The pilot project involves six robots. The class uses kits from VEX Robotics as a platform to enrich science, technology, engineering and mathematics lessons. Students have also attended a competition to whet their appetites.

The program involves weekly sessions with each student assembling a robot, following instructions provided by the curriculum. The process makes for a less traditional classroom.

“It’s a little noisy, but it’s controlled noise,” Rivera said. “The students follow the instructions themselves; they talk to each other and collaborate with each other.”

The academy, a charter school for prekindergarten through eighth grade, hopes to incorporate the robotics program in the whole school curriculum next year. Teams could take part in competitions with students controlling robots that pick up objects and move them for points.

The main goal is not to win a robot war, but to stir students’ minds. 

“Perhaps the most compelling reason for this program is that it introduces students to knowledge, concepts and skills necessary for understanding information-based technology of the future — one that is highly interactive,” said Dr. Patricia Williams, administrator for Ambassadors Preparatory Academy.

“Robotics engages students in problem solving and higher-order thinking. It improves students’ creativity and collaboration skills and boosts self-confidence, thus, making it an effective tool to prepare the students for the 21st century.”

The academy plans to allow eligible students completing the program to apply for high school credit. To pay for the robot kits, school officials will be applying for grants and seeking sponsorships.

“Students love these types of projects,” Williams said. “This is the future.”

At a glance

For information on Ambassadors Preparatory Academy’s robotics program, contact Rex Rivera, 409-762-1115, or visit the school website at Donations to help the program expand schoolwide next year are welcome.

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