For the past 28 years, Randolph EMC has demonstrated our commitment to education by sponsoring the Bright Ideas education grants in K–12 classrooms of public, charter and private school teachers. During this time, Randolph Electric has invested more than $300,000 in innovative projects that have benefited students in our five-county area.
In the 2021 grant cycle, two teachers from Uwharrie Charter Academy won a Bright Ideas grant to bring Sphero robotics to their classrooms. Marley Knapp, Digital Learning Coordinator, and Jessica Hoffmire, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) teacher, collaborated on their grant-winning project called Making Waves for the Environment.
Using a tech tool called a Sphero robot, students in fourth grade coded their robotic balls to move from side to side and all around in a tub of water. Through trial and error, students learned how to make their robotic balls agitate the water, creating waves. Next, the students experimented with different surface covers and additions (such as popsicle sticks held in place by rubber bands) to create more potential angles for agitational flow in the water. Finally, students returned to programming code that moved their balls in different ways in the water. Their goal was to make their waves as large as possible.
In their next step, students will add sand to their water tanks to understand how erosion wears away the shoreline.
Knapp and Hoffmire will follow this demonstration with discussions of real-life applications. Students will learn how the Cape Hatteras lighthouse was moved because of beach erosion.
Through the lessons, the students master how to solve problems as a team and glean valuable critical thinking skills, all through the fun of interactive, hands-on learning. The children also gain confidence in computer programming while building their knowledge of environmental education.
Knapp said one of the highlights for her while teaching this project has been watching students with special needs delight in the hands-on, multi-sensory learning. In addition, the project has brought a unique opportunity to all students who have experienced a couple years of pandemic-based isolation.
“The exploration that the kids are doing is giving them the opportunity to make decisions and solve problems as a team,” said Knapp.
When asked their favorite part of the project, many of the students said that they love the robots. One fourth grader named Levi said, “My favorite thing is getting to see what you’ve programmed.”
If you know of an educator whose classroom would benefit from an innovative learning opportunity, please tell him or her to apply for a Bright Ideas education grant of up to $2,000. Applications and more information about the program can be found at NCBrightIdeas.com.
Bright Ideas grant applications will be accepted through September 15, but teachers are encouraged to apply early. Those who submit their application by August 15 will be entered to win one of five $100 Visa gift cards.
Supported by all 26 electric cooperatives in North Carolina, Bright Ideas grants have contributed $14.3 million to N.C. classrooms, funding a total of 13,536 projects that have benefited well over 2.8 million students statewide since 1994.