Students attending the BUSD Robot Build Day on Thursday, May 5, broke into a cheer as the colorful and unique robots designed by the Robotics Clubs at each Burbank middle school were unveiled.
Silver Deemo (Jordan), red, white and blue Johnny (Muir) and bright yellow Luther (Luther) dapped and danced, turned, squatted and moved their way through sequences of moves each Robotics Club had planned out in advance.
Each school’s club of approximately 20 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders with a strong interest in coding and robotics attended the Build Day program, about 60 middle schoolers in all.
Teachers at each middle school organized and led the after school programs which began in February.
David Starr Jordan Middle School’s Robotics Club was supervised by Chris Mitchell and Kathy Hodgins. John Muir Middle School’s group was led by Corey Howard. Luther Burbank Middle School’s club was directed by Joshua Watts and Mozh Jamison.
Built and programmed by engineers from 21st Century Robot, the Burbank middle school Robotics Club students came up with the ideas for what each robot would look like and how they would move.
The pilot after-school Robotics Club program was funded for the spring of 2016 with one time funds from the state. The Robotics Club members started out building and programming with LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits and learning about 3-D printing.
Students then began collaborating with the engineers at 21st Century Robot, to build each school’s very own functioning and programmable robot, after being connected with the project by Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Warner Bros. was introduced to Brian David Johnson and the 21st Century Robot project when the company optioned film rights for the 21st Century Robot book in 2015, explained Mary-Elizabeth Michaels, Warner Bros. Entertainment Director of Community Affairs.
Johnson was looking to pilot the program with a large group of students and Warner Bros. was happy to support the endeavor and to sponsor the effort at all three Burbank middle schools, she added.
The culmination of weeks of design and work was BUSD Robot Build Day. Burbank Unified Superintendent Matt Hill, Assistant Superintendents Tom Kissinger and Sharon Cuseo and Director of Secondary Education John Paramo attended the event along with Michaels, Johnson and 21st Century Robot staff.
“Warner Bros. is proud to have sponsored this program,” Michaels said as she welcomed students to BUSD Robot Build Day. “You all are luckier to get to work with Brian David Johnson than you even know – he is one of the best at what he does in the entire world!”
“I hope you have enjoyed everything you’ve learned and done as you’ve created your robots. Skills you learn through this program and others like it will set you up for success in more potential future careers than you realize.”
“Depending on your interests you can go into engineering or computer programming, as well as numerous other fields including some in the entertainment world that require technical and creative skills. Everything from motion capture to special effects to video game design require technical expertise – so keep it up, have fun and maybe we’ll be working with you at Warner Bros. one day!”
After students met their robots, they broke into groups to get hands on with Deemo, Johnny and Luther. Later in the day, students separated into groups again, rotating through coding and design stations, learning how the engineers at 21st Century Robot built the robots from concept to physical and functional reality.
“Our imaginative ideas and hard work came to life thanks to numerous people who genuinely helped us,” said Jordan Middle School student Crystal Palacio. “My favorite moment was the exact moment they moved the box blocking our wondrous Deemo, which was just a figment of our imagination at the time put into paper.”
“We all learned so much thanks to the rotating stations all teaching useful skills that can open so many doors. I, personally, was so intrigued by the coding station. All those numbers and symbols that make up the inner workings of a robot kept my eyes glued to the screen consistently.”
“I am definitely VERY interested in involving robotics (software) in my future career (Software Engineer) and learning so much more. I feel so lucky to be able to say that our Jordan Robotics Club has their very own robot,” Palacio also said.
“It’s all in the imagination and the imagination you’ve shown through this process is incredible,” said Johnson at the end of BUSD Robot Build Day. “You have to imagine what you want. Nothing great was built by people with them imagining it first.”
“We’ve showed you a few of your robots’ capabilities,” he added. “Now, what do you want them to do next?”
While funding has not yet been secured for the future of the middle school program, many of the BUSD Robotics Club students excitedly brainstormed ideas throughout the day for activities they hope to program for their robots.