From Curiosity to Competition: The Evolutionary Journey of The Park School’s Robotics Program

in Winter 2023-24 by

What began as a one-off indoor activity on a rainy day and a casual experiment with snap circuits for Grade 5 students has evolved into a thriving Robotics Program that stands as a testament to innovation, collaboration, and self-directed learning.

The creation of the Robotics Program was a response to the innate curiosity and enthusiasm of Grade 5 students seeking an engaging activity during recess. Their intrigue led them to explore the realm of robotics, culminating in a collective desire to delve deeper. The introduction of a robot marked a pivotal moment, sparking diverse interests, from building components to coding intricate functionalities. The group’s participation surged, expanding from two students to a dedicated group of six or seven Grade 5 students, with consistent attendance at every recess. The involvement of Upper Division Head Ken Rogers, who had prior experience with the VEX Robotics program, further amplified the collaborative spirit. 

The 2022-2023 school year witnessed the program’s formalization, with daily after-school sessions drawing 12 enthusiastic students. Their journey was characterized by self-directed exploration, where students took the reins of their learning journey. While the program offered guidance, the students dictated the trajectory, fostering a sense of ownership and empowerment.

Robotics joins Drama and Athletics to expand the after-school activities offered for Upper Division and offers students a chance to work in a team environment that highlights non-athletic skills. It’s just one of the many ways Park encourages students to pursue their curiosity, find joy in learning, competition, and collaboration with their peers. 

The essence of the program transcends mere technical skills. It cultivates creative problem-solving, instilling mechanical engineering acumen evident in conversations about “gear trains” and wheel configurations. The students set their sights on regional competitions, particularly those at Newton South High School and Mashpee’s Quashnet School, hoping to receive invitations to the VEX IQ Southern New England Championship.

The program’s success is largely due to its emphasis on collaboration and leadership. With 27 students now enrolled, teamwork and mentorship have become integral facets. Students navigate the challenges of collaborative endeavors, with some emerging as natural leaders committed to mentoring peers. 

The transition of knowledge, especially among 8th graders mentoring younger students, exemplifies the program’s ethos of shared growth and mutual support. As the program continues to flourish and David Raabe looks to the future, he hopes its impact resonates beyond robotics, shaping students into innovative thinkers and collaborative leaders.