In recent years, all Garneau Elementary School students have been involved in robotics. If there’s one time of the week the kids at this school in Montreal’s Centre-Sud don’t want to miss, it’s the time they’ve spent with their robots.
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“We have a small problem, but we will solve it.”
Maeva, “six and a half years old,” had just explained how the little Dash robot she programmed with a friend would move across the floor and follow a very specific path, “like a figure eight, but upside down”.
It didn’t go as planned. Maeva and Mariana leaned over their tablet and noticed that the robot is “not listening” and urged the journalist to come back in a few minutes for another demonstration.
Like all the other Garneau students, the little ones spend about an hour a week doing robotics. In this school in the Centre-Sud neighborhood of Montreal, this is the project we chose to mobilize students and teachers.
Joël Beaudoin explains that the robotics period he does every week with his 1 . year old studentsd year is a learning moment: you have to measure the distance the robot has to travel, know how to read the programming blocks that tell the robot to sometimes turn, sometimes go backwards.
Young people, the pro says, realize “there are different ways to achieve a goal.”
We are looking for students who sometimes do less well. They are attracted to robots, they are cute. Every week they ask me when we do it and when I say we don’t have time they are really disappointed.
Joël Beaudoin, teacher at Garneau Elementary School
The first robots at Garneau School were purchased in the wake of the Digital Action Plan drawn up by Quebec in 2018. However, the teacher who set up the project left for another school and the robots are “sleeping”.
Teacher Denis Gosselin picked up the ball. “I have been interested in it from a young age. We said to ourselves: we’re going to bring this to life, these robots,” explains the teacher training officer.
The headmaster, Jean-François Lafleur, insisted that “everyone boarded”, both students and teachers.
There had to be continuity from one level to the next, and no student would be left behind. The Garneau school is at the peak of Quebec’s deprivation scale, “10 out of 10,” says the principal.
“We should not hide it, we are in a multi-ethnic sector, where parents cannot always help the children with their homework,” said Bernard Bazouamon, chairman of the board of directors of the school.
According to the Montreal School Service Center, 70% of the students at this school come from allophone families.
When it comes to robotics, everything happens at school, notes Denis Gosselin.
“I have been teaching here since 2008 and I quickly understood that it was the children who had to be involved. You have to work with them,” explains Mr. Gosselin out.
Challenges for robots… and children
In the class of 3e year of Bruno Vincent, these are drones that the students learn to guide in a course. The machine has to go around boxes and under a stick.
Penelope says she enjoys handling the drone, “telling ourselves we can do it and working as a team,” she explains.
One of the objectives is that students work together.
Each team consists of a programmer, people who will measure, they have a log to do and they change roles every week.
It is difficult to talk about in a team of students. “What happens if the drone drops the boxes? asks a student. These drones are not bilingual: how do you say “turn right, but in English?” asks Émerik, age 9.
In total, the school has invested about $80,000 in equipment for its project. We now have about ten robots per level, computers, tablets. Dash, Sphero and Blue-Bot get ready to go back to their boxes for the summer holidays, but one thing is certain: they won’t get dusty for long.