While professional golfers drove their way down the green at the PGA Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, shouts from excited students could be heard coming from a large white tent where kids were hard at work building miniature robotic Lego golfers.
Looking in, spectators could watch local students participate in the STEAM Learning Lab, a collaborative effort by CDW and Acer to showcase technology that teachers can use to turn science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) studies into interactive, engaging experiences.
“We believe that investing in STEM education is essential,” said Matt Troka, CDW’s senior vice president of product and partner management at the Friday event. “We also recognize the real-world context and application of this knowledge is important for kids to experience and have access to from a young age.”
“Because today’s kids are digital natives, helping them make a connection between activities they enjoy and STEM education and technology is a great way to prepare them for opportunities in the future,” Troka said.
Students Build and Program Robots in Problem-Solving Challenge
Building problem-solving skills is a crucial component to modern learning. Inside of the Learning Lab, students used their creativity and coding skills to complete a single task: successfully putt a golf ball. The caveat? They had to use robots to do it.
Activity leaders from robotics studio Buildup STEAM asked students to build their own miniature robotic golfers, which were equipped with small motors.
After creating their athletes, students used tablets programmed with simple coding commands to make their robots successfully putt balls across a Lego golf course, avoiding small sand traps and other obstacles.
John McInerney, president and CEO of Buildup STEAM, originally developed these robotics activities to keep children occupied while in the hospital. However, he says there are plenty of educational applications as well.
“In regard to the Legos, this is a building system that students are familiar with and want to use, which entices kids on the construction and engineering side,” said McInerney. “On the robotics side, we are able to sneakily teach the kids coding. You can get even more advanced with these robots using motion sensors, which allows for more advanced coding lessons.”
Above all else, said McInerney, the goal of his Lego-based activities is to take a traditionally dry topic like science and turn it into an exciting experience for learners.
“The way to get kids interested in something is to make it fun,” said McInerney. “Especially if you can make learning fun. If you can design this to make it simple and easy and fun for kids to understand, they will stay more engaged.”
Professional Golfer Makes Guest Appearance to Talk Tech in Golf
Along with hands-on activities, kids at the Learning Lab were treated to a special guest appearance from a professional golfer. Current U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland shared how the products of STEAM have helped him become a top golf competitor.
“I use technology every time I play, and technology and sports are increasingly intertwined,” Woodland said. Woodland described a capture tool that allows him to review and analyze all of his shots. “I can use that data to improve my performance either in real time or after the fact.”
Woodland expanded on how he uses technology in golf to stress the importance of having engaging STEAM education in K–12 classrooms.
“Technology is everywhere,” said Woodland. “It’s part of our everyday lives and it’s important for kids to understand and have access to technology and this type of education.”