LM Hershey Campus Starts Robotics Program

At Lancaster Mennonite School’s Hershey Campus, teacher Sue Eckert is constantly looking for ways to inspire her students. At the end of every school year, she surveys them to get ideas that will increase their joy of learning. Coding, or writing a computer program, is among the top picks of her Elementary Tech Lab students.

“My young students are most happy creating games that they can play, not just playing games that others have created,” Eckert said. “K-12 coding resources are now available to help them learn computer science principles in non-threatening ways.”

The idea of robotics arose naturally from the coding activities. “Robotics takes the object you program to move on the computer screen and puts it in your hands, opening up a new world of experimentation and problem-solving for you,” explained Eckert.

To encourage personal ownership of a Robotics project, Eckert asked the students in grades three through five to create slideshows about an educational robot of their choice. In this way, students presented their findings to each other and collaboratively analyzed sixteen different options. “Inviting students to present their top picks for educational robots allowed them to share the process of decision making and to define their values and goals for integrating robotics into the curriculum,” Eckert said. “This model of learner-driven education makes students observers, creators, and problem-solvers.”

A robotics kit includes a physical robot, related accessories and the instruction guide. The robots have some built-in functions such as light and touch sensors, can respond to stimuli like hand clapping or speech, and produce sounds themselves. Their educational value is the way that students are able to use apps to communicate with and program the robots.

“We are hoping to purchase a few kinds of educational robot kits, said Eckert. “The variety enables us to introduce applied coding and problem-solving to every grade level.” She plans to begin with Dash & Dot kits from Wonder Workshop and Edison V2.0 kits. A Dash & Dot kit with two Dash robots and two Dot robots costs $700-$870. An Edison V2.0 robot kit with 10 Edison robots costs about $370.

To raise funds for the robotics kits, LMS Hershey families, friends, and interested community partners are collecting empty aluminum cans and scrap for recycling. The first load of 118 pounds was delivered at the end of November. “Although aluminum doesn’t have much of a scrap resale value right now, collecting cans is easy to do,” Eckert explained. “It also sets a good example of environmental stewardship to our students and keeps the robotics project within sight.” The school is also accepting monetary donations to buy the kits.

While the younger Hershey students are awaiting their kits, a Robotics Club was formed for high school students looking to pursue engineering and mechanical studies. The Robotics Club meets twice a week on Wednesdays and Thursdays to build robots. The club is currently programming a Parallax Boe Bot from Professor Aldo Morales of Penn State Harrisburg because they plan to compete in upcoming robotics competitions at Penn State. They are looking for financial support to purchase a second robot kit from Parallax. The Robotics Club consists of Emma Sellers, Cara Higgins, Michael Rosenfeld, Alex Beck and Jimmy He.

“Robotics is an effective way to synthesize core subject content with creativity, collaboration, and applied-problem solving,” said Eckert. “It’s a tool to use to satisfy the age-old student question, ‘Why do I need to learn this?’”

LM Hershey teachers want to help their students discover and use their God-given gifts and look for innovative ways to foster an outlook of curiosity and stewardship of the world around them. This perspective is at the heart of the school’s desire to incorporate educational robotics into the educational program. The Hershey Campus provides a comprehensive educational experience for 187 students in kindergarten through high school under one roof at 1525 Sand Hill Road, Hummelstown.


Students working on robot: Students with robot (l-r): Emma Sellers 10th grade, Jiacheng (Jimmy) He 12th grade, Michael Rosenfeld 12th grade, Cara Higgins 11th grade.

Students in a row: Students with robot (l-r): Jiacheng (Jimmy) He 12th grade, Emma Sellers 10th grade, Cara Higgins 11th grade, Michael Rosenfeld 12th grade.