What is Project Lead The Way? What are the Fifth Graders working on with Project Lead the Way?

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is the leading provider of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs and provides students with opportunities and challenges to develop the skills needed to succeed in our ever changing global economy.  PLTW is a hands-on, project-based curriculum for elementary, middle, and high school students.

At the fifth grade level, students are paired into groups of two or three.  Their mission is to design and build a robot, using the Engineering Design Process, in order to complete a given challenge.  The students begin the module by exploring what a robot is and researching different model types, using the Educreations App via the iPad.

Next, students begin to explore the VEX kits.  Each VEX kit consists of hundreds of robotic parts that allow students to design and create an almost infinite number of different machines/robots.  This is always an exciting time for all students! Their mission is to build a toy using the VEX kits.  Each toy must have at least one moving part, but no motors or sensors are allowed during this particular challenge.

Then students are given the opportunity to test many different robotic components.  Students explore and learn with their partner how to use each sensor, brain, and controller so that they can build a successful robot.  Students test to see what will happen when using the color and touch sensors.

Finally, all groups begin to build robots.  Students use the Autodesk Publisher App via the iPad and follow step-by-step directions for building a robot chassis.  Upon successful completion, the students are given the opportunity to modify their robot design.

The Challenge: Each robot is to enter the Fukushima Dai-chi nuclear power plant (square on the floor) and remove hazardous wastes (blocks) from the site.  Each disaster site has a water hazard (blue paper), a hazardous area (red paper), and a hazardous waste deposit area (corner).  Groups must move a minimum of three blocks into the deposit area in two minutes or less.  Every group was successful in completing this challenge, even when a classmate from another team was given the opportunity to place the hazardous waste wherever they wanted in the disaster site.

Currently, Mrs. Laurie Heimsoth’s homeroom students have completed the first module.  Mrs. Lifka Bennett’s homeroom students will soon be ready to complete the robot challenge.  Mrs. Judy Benish’s homeroom students are patiently waiting their turn to begin PLTW.

(Photos and article by Judy Benish)