Community Education Director
Simpson County Schools
“The WaterBotics curriculum teaches problem-solving, decision-making, teamwork, perseverance, and patience all in one week. It's a high impact, high value curriculum."
Robin Hollingsworth is the Community Education Director for Simpson County Schools. Though not a classroom teacher, Robin attended instructor training for WaterBotics and became so enthusiastic that she decided to partner with the local 4-H organization to offer WaterBotics as a summer camp for middle school students. The camp ran for a week, 8 am to 4 pm each day. In the summer of 2013 the camp was marketed only to girls. However, to attract a larger number of participants, in summer 2014 the camp was marketed to boys and girls. Robin hired a middle school science teacher as a “classroom helper” with a science background to deliver the program in summer 2013. In summer of 2014 a second middle school teacher was hired to lead the program. The WaterBotics curriculum was augmented with lunchtime speakers -- engineers and scientists, who sometimes served as mentors to the campers. In summer of 2014 an industry visit was added to the camp program.
When discussing the strengths of the program Robin noted not only that the curriculum is effective in teaching science, engineering, and computer programming skills and concepts, but many soft skills are developed as well. Robin commented, “The WaterBotics curriculum teaches problem-solving, decision making, teamwork, perseverance, and patience all in one week. It’s a high impact, high value curriculum.” Robin credited the application of the engineering design process (EDP) which is central to the WaterBotics curriculum as underpinning many of these student outcomes. Specifically, she noted, “When the learners didn’t get the outcomes they wanted they were encouraged to apply the EDP to structure their problem-solving. This iterative process taught them perseverance, analytic decision making skills and the value of good teamwork.” Robin commented, “Though learners often experienced frustration when trying to overcome design or programming problems, when they finally succeeded it built self-confidence.” One parent sent a letter testifying to the transformation he had observed in his daughter’s confidence and decision-making skills over the course of the program.
When asked about other strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum, Robin indicated that the materials and resources available to educators on the WaterBotics web site are exceptional. She noted, “Everything is there. The curriculum is ready-to-go. Basically we opened up the instructor binder and did it just as it was laid out. The middle school science teacher who taught the curriculum had never touched LEGOs® before.” Simpson County schools have integrated WaterBotics into their 6th grade curriculum. Robin noted that the reliance on the engineering design process as a core competency is a great fit with the new national standards that require the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills. In addition, Simpson County 7th and 8th science teachers are also looking to incorporate WaterBotics into the classroom. There are also plans to expand the 4H summer WaterBotics camp programs, possibly with WaterBotics camp “graduates” as mentors.