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Chinook Middle School receives $5,000 grant for ‘Bots Builds Brains’ program

The Design & Engineering program at SeaTac’s Chinook Middle School is getting a helping hand thanks to a $5,000 CenturyLink Teachers and Technology Grant for their B3 program.

The program – which stands for Bots Builds Brains – began at the start of the 2016-2017 academic year and has captured students’ interest.

Design and Engineering teacher Elizabeth Nelson applied for the grant with help from STEM Coach Sydni Neves. They had recently unearthed a few small, outdated robots that were working inconsistently. Students were assigned a variety of problems to solve with their bots. However, there were not enough robots, parts, cables or sensors needed for students to take the robots apart, rebuild them, or improve upon the design. Despite limitations of equipment, magic happened for many students. They started working together to build bots and create solutions.

“The program has sparked the interest and excitement in our students, including some who had been less engaged in school,” Chinook Principal Karin Jones said. “We’re so thankful for the grant from CenturyLink, which will help the program grow and make a meaningful impact on students.”

Chinook’s Design and Engineering classes provide opportunities for students to shine beyond the classroom. During B3, students collaborate as they write code to control and manipulate their robots. Students are immersed in hands-on learning, moving from coding in graphical development environments to text-based languages.

For the 2017-2018 academic year, Chinook hopes to offer robotics units to about 150 students through Design and Engineering classes. The goal is to assemble an after-school team of about 25 students who will compete in local and regional robotics competitions.

High school students from the competitive robotics team at the nearby Tyee campus visit the middle school to speak about the impact robotics has had on them and provide robotics demonstrations and activities. In turn, middle school students visit their feeder elementary schools to build excitement about robotics and programming by showing what the robots can do.

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