Early this morning, driving to work I heard this incredible story about high school students beating MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in a competition - TWICE, four years ago. Today, that team is being interviewed on NPR, the students and the teacher, because they have an all girls team in regional robotics competition at LA. This robotics team is project based learning in its' finest.
The students drive their own efforts to build the robot, plus they work with feeder (middle) schools to train the students there in building and operating robotics, plus they raise funds to be able to travel to the competitions. The teacher, Fredi Lajvardi, puts in tons of hours after school and on weekends - the majority of which is volunteer - he doesn't get paid by the school district for his club work. I think the key here on the project learning aspect is this - the students are willingly 100% responsible for all the work done by their club.
Naturally, in the course of this participation students learn science and math. They also build incredible social skills. As a side benefit, students get prepared to be engineers and many of the team participants have gone on to a university with scholarship money. The training they provide to the students in middle schools is their volunteer work, which pays off when those middle schoolers understand more about math and science plus they're ready when they arrive at high school for robotics.
Kudos to Fredi and his determination to make all this available to his robotics team!
Click here for radio interview and slides at NPR.
Click here for the Falcon robotics web site.