Robotics Competition 2018: teaching Coaching, Coding and Confidence

For the past few months, our Next Jumpers in the London office have been teaching bright young minds at Netley Primary School how to code, using Lego Mindstorm robots. It’s been an amazing journey watching our young friends grow, helping each other to control the robots and direct them  to complete a variety of tasks. They began with no experience, but with the help of Next Jumpers, quickly picked up on learning how to make the robots do just what they wanted, using motion and colour sensors to command where the machines went and how they responded.

 

 

It’s been a learning experience on both sides – Next Jumpers aren’t trained teachers, so we’ve also had the opportunity to learn ourselves – what’s the best way to present information in a clear, engaging way? How can we explain code to kids? It’s opened our eyes to new methods, and we’ve all grown just as much as the students have! We’re all passionate about education and the next generation, so the opportunity to give back is a truly rewarding one. We created a curriculum to equip pupils with coding skills, and rounded it off not with a test, but a competition! We’re big believers in experiential learning and wanted a chance to proudly show what our Netley friends had learned to family and friends.

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This Robotics Competition involved our savvy junior coders competing in teams in front of their teachers, family and peers alike, so the pressure was on. To ramp up the pressure even more, we also streamed the event across all our offices, giving New York and Boston NxJers a fun and energetic Thursday morning.

We set three challenging tasks: lifting a broken pipe, replacing that broken pipe, and finally, pushing a lever and dropping a water barrel into a nearby fountain. These tasks were all set on specific locations on a map, where the kids would have to utilise their problem solving skills to find the best routes and ensure their robots were correctly coded. This entailed a lot of logical thinking – instead of just telling a robot to move forward by 10cm, for example, they would ask the robot to move until it came across a certain colour on the map, turn and then power another motor do perform a certain move. This makes the robot far more versatile and realistic – just like many Roomba vacuum until they bump into a wall, for example!

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Our four teams gave it their all. In Round One, they tried out their code for the first time, our global audience and judges watching intently. Then, in true Next Jump and educational spirit, we gave everyone a break and time to refine their code: experiential learning at its best. In the second round, teams tried the same challenge after tweaking and improving their code, learning from their mistakes and successes in the previous round. We then had a Q&A session with our judges, who questioned the teams on their approach, what they’d learned and tried, and awarded points based around teamwork and learning mindset. Finally we held our awards ceremony where the winning team, Team Blue Whale, who knocked it out of the park,  were awarded with robots of their very own to take home and code over the summer holidays!

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A proud mother in the audience mentioned how much her daughter enjoyed the Robotics Club and what her daughter had learned. It was so inspiring to hear how excited she was about the club, how desperate she is to talk non-stop about robotics at home, and how proud she is to know more than her older brother! And then to also hear from the teachers at Netley that our winning team captain was below average in all his subjects, but completely shines in Robotics Club. It’s little moments like these that make us proud to be Next Jumpers.

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Fellow students also ran up to us after the event, gleefully telling us that they had been inspired to join the club next year – we hope they do!

Deputy Head Gareth told us

What a great event and so inspiring to see our children perform the robotics confidently and with technical ease. What an improvement in their robotic capabilities. I really thank everyone in the team for working with them and developing their knowledge and their confidence. It was a fantastic afternoon.  Several children came up to me and told me they were going to join robotic club next year- so you have inspired the next generation.

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We’re inspired and proud by what this partnership between ourselves and Netley has blossomed into. We can’t wait to see what happens next and how the program grows! The Adopt a School program is part of Next Jump’s broader Better You giving back platform.  Our intent is to create a movement that will inspire other corporations around the world to adopt schools and create a private/public partnership unseen in education to-date. Overall, Next Jump’s broader mission is to change the world – if the children at these schools get inspired by their own potential, we believe they will grow to give back and help to build better communities too.

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Better Me + Better You = Better Us

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