Robotics Class Focuses on Real-world Problem Solving

Students in Hillcrest's robotics class have accomplished a lot this year. They built a 3D printer using the school's two other 3D printers. They've programed boards and soldered connections to make a device that levitates objects. Now they are working on their final, a robotic chess board.

The large wooden pieces of a chess board lay disheveled in the back corner. Students are done with their research into the board. Now there is the sound of Dremel drills grinding off excess pieces from gears that will operate the robots the class is building from scratch. The arm of one of the robots is nearly done. There are a few gears that need to be grinded out after a design flaw forced the team to do a slight redesign. They are planning to use an analog controller that will be soldered to a board to drive the motors that will cause the arm to operate. It's the class's final exam. The collaborative project is what they will encounter in the real world.

The class is working at a feverish pace. A few students are tying up some other projects from the year. One is building a small drone. His frame appears to be a little heavy, so he is starting a reprint on one of the 3D printers in the room. His rotors and blades are laying next to another project he finished with his class earlier in the year.

Another student is finishing the base of a lamp she is making. She designed the lamp shade in a computer aided drafting program, using some unique designs to fabricate a modern looking lamp shade. Her 3D print is taking a bit longer.

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In another corner of the room sits the class's major achievement. A three foot 3D printer that they built nearly from scratch. They programmed the school's 3D printers to make joining corners and support structures. They have a small board that operates the machine. It isn't strong enough right now, one student thinks. He feels the extruder is moving too slow because the computer can't push information to it fast enough. They have another one on order, but this student is watching the consistency of the plastic as it comes out of the extruder and is thankful they have another on the way. This machine is a double extruder, so it can use two types of plastic. Their teacher, Armin Jahr, is excited because he wants to have the class create a fully functioning motor completely 3D printed at one time. The magic of using two plastics means the class can make one of the plastics water soluble. Which means they can take the 3D creation and soak it in water. The water soluble plastic will dissipate and will leave the other plastic in tact with the gears that will be completely house and fully functioning.

The class laughs as they work, pausing for a minute to ask each other to take a look at what they're doing for insight. Students work on aspects of their project, while giving advice or encouragement to other classmates who are working on the detail aspects that will impact the entire project. This is one of the classes that uses a lot of collaboration at Hillcrest. Students aren't in school to merely achieve a good grade or high score, they're learning how to function in the world through collaboration and seeking the best for others. Engaging in the classroom is part of being a good citizen, and bearing the image of God. Hillcrest's program naturally pulls students to be a part of the overall learning environment.