Austin College Physics Professor Andra Petrean held her first robotics class of the year at Venue Off the Square in Sherman on Saturday. About eight students learned how to program robots to move forward and to the left during the three-hour class.
This is the third time Petrean has offered this beginner’s programming class for children ages 8-12.
“In the summer, I did this as hourly classes for four weeks then I had a second session that was the same thing,” Petrean said. “But, what was happening was that it was hard for parents to have their children to commit for four weeks. With other activities going on, they often had conflicts with one or two of the classes.”
The cap for Petrean’s classes is eight students and ten students if she has a helper; Saturday’s class was full.
“I have two children, both are born and raised in Sherman,” Petrean said. “Throughout the years I have been able to put them in, music, voice, acting, Taekwondo, soccer, but nothing for science. There was nothing in town that I could find where they could do things related to science and computers.”
Petrean said it was important for her to be able to teach these classes because children often time do not understand why they need to learn subjects such as math.
“Today, we are making the robot move between two points,” she said. “You can make it go at a certain speed and if you increase the speed then the time has to be less. They can see the relationship between math and things that they can enjoy. They can apply it somewhere. It’s also important to keep them interested because there are robotics classes and programs in high school, but this way they can learn somethings before they get there.”
Saturday’s program taught students about If-Else Statements, and, in the future, Petrean hopes to teach children how to write code line by line.
“If you clap once the robot goes left and if you clap twice it will go straight,” she said. “They use the if-else statement which is used with a lot of the higher level programs. These concepts will be every programming language for the rest of their lives. Later on we will be learning about loops. These are the basics of programming.”
Aaron Thomas took a robotics class from Petrean in the past and loved it so much that he wanted to help teach others about engineering.
“The class I took was a little different,” he said. “We worked with similar types of components, but they were more advanced. Learning on those projects made me interested in teaching or helping younger students learn about programming.”
Children, Thomas said, have unlimited creativity. He hopes that through robotics, they learn that they can make whatever comes into their imagination.
“That gives children the ability to learn things that adults are going back to school to learn,” he said. “That will help them in the future become professionals at it and just keep going from here. Focusing on these skills now helps them to figure out things on their own. They learn problem solving. They learn how to make new things.”
Saturday was Dalton Brown’s second time attending a class taught by Petrean. He said people should just try it.
“At school I do GT, but school is not very challenging,” he said. “I wanted more of a challenge. My grandma told me about this so that I came and it was really fun. So I came again this time.”
Another class will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Venue Off the Square in Sherman. The class is $89 per student. Children can attend the class multiple times. For more information, call 903-225-9028.