Kosciuszko Students Use ‘Childhood Toy’ to Learn, Teach

Muslim Matters

Kosciuszko Students Use ‘Childhood Toy’ to Learn, Teach

By Nargis Rahman, TMO

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Michael Dobbyn, coach of the FIRST Lego League at Kosciuszko, with Muhammad Harris who built the Tilted Twister with fellow students from the STEM class, and team members.

Lego blocks are a teaching tool used for students to get an upper hand in science technology education at Kosciuszko Middle School in Hamtramck, Michigan. “LEGO are more than just a toy,” said the school’s 14-year FIRST Lego League Coach, and the Science Technology Engineering and Mechanics (STEM) elective teacher Michael Dobbyn.

The school bought $1300 in Lego blocks this past year from the LEGO Education foundation, which provides Lego kits for schools. The school was reimbursed in a $2500 grant by the non-profit group Educational Blueprint to put on a community showcase event to display how LEGO are used in education. Kosciuszko was one of 100 schools in the nation to get the grant, said Dobbyn.

FIRST Lego League is a middle school starter program to a national high school engineering program around the nation which aims to inspire students to pursue fields in science and technology called FIRST Robotics.

Muhammad Harris, 8th grade student at Kosciuszko, built the robot “Tilted Twister 2.0,” designed by Swedish software developer Hans Andersson in 2010, for the May 17 community event. He saw a similar robot at last year’s FIRST Lego League regional competition in Allen Park.

The robot designed out of Lego blocks and programmed by computer software solves Rubik’s Cubes, a 3-by-3 cube with six colors in five minutes (75 percent of the time). When solved, each face of the cube displays a solid color. It was a popular game in the l980s designed by Erno Rubik, a Hungarian professor of architecture and design. Feliks Zemdegs holds the world record for solving the cube in 5.66 seconds since June 25, 2011.

Andersson has directions for building the robot online. Dobbyn said robots with online instructions are not easy to build. “Ideas and concepts are out there. It’s not something you can just go online and in two hours you’re solving Rubik’s Cube,” he said.

Modifications and alterations had to be made for the robot to solve the cube. Harris said Lego parts from other sets were used, computer software had to be altered, and the Rubik’s Cube was lubricated and physically used before getting results. The cube wouldn’t work “fresh out of the pack,” with the robot, said Harris.

We were about to give up on it from the beginning, said Dobbyn. “He (Harris) does deserve a lot of credit for getting it to work,” he said. Harris didn’t want to stop once he started the project.

Harris, 13, who said he has an interest in software design, said he has more to accomplish. “There’s a lot more to build know and explore in the future.” He intends to look and build advanced robots which solve the Rubik’s Cube in a few seconds.

Harris said he learned team work through the project and enjoyed the tasks involved.

Dobbyn, who said he always wanted to work for The LEGO Group, said the STEM classes at the school were created six years ago to accommodate students who wanted to be on the 10-person afterschool team but did not have a spot. Former Vice Principal Nayal Maktari requested Dobbyn to take charge of the class. Since Dobbyn said he enjoys his new role, and has acquired a Masters Degree in Educational Technology, with a concentration in LEGO Robotics in 2010 from Lawrence Technology University in Michigan.

STEM classes may vary from school to school; either focusing on math or mechanics (the “m” in the acronym). Kosciuszko’s classes involve hands-on science and mechanics rather than math to adapt with a variety of 7th and 8th graders. “I have all the kids in the school,” said Dobbyn, referring to ESL, special education and other students.

Harris who was a part of the STEM class this year said the class is engaging. I don’t want to leave when class is over, he said.

The Lego team has won five awards in the State competitions in the past five years.


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