Robots take over Old Hammondtown classroom

Oct 4, 2019

MATTAPOISETT — Any unsuspecting passerby who wandered into the computer lab at Old Hammondtown School between the hours of 9 and 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 4 might have taken a robot to the feet. 

For the third year, Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School sophomores from the electronics shop visited Lisa Lourenco’s class, bringing a variety of robots. 

Dan Brush, who teaches Electronics at Old Colony, explained that the first year the group accidentally went to Rochester Memorial School instead. They finally managed to arrive at Old Hammondtown, a little late, and later got a call from Rochester Memorial saying something like “wait, now that we know you’re doing that, we want you back here!” 

Brush asked sixth graders if they knew what Old Colony did. One student responded with, “robotics?” 

The engineering teacher said that was pretty typical for younger students, who “don’t understand it’s more than a regular high school. We teach kids to work with their hands,” Brush said. 

The students brought robots that could wheel around, collide with feet and use claws to pick up small objects. Brush said these “claw bots” took only about a week to build, but that he tries to teach his students the theory behind the motors and other parts that they work with. 

Asked how a Rubik’s Cube-solving robot worked, one of the Old Colony students responded “barely!” 

He later explained that the robot scans the pattern of colors on the cube, running through algorithms and memorizing the sequence that it will take to solve the puzzle. Still, the cube that the students brought that day was a bit harder to turn, which sometimes tripped up the robot because it cannot see or sense when it has failed on any one step. 

Still, the robot solved the cube in 25 moves. And, as Bush said, “sometimes students learn more when it doesn’t work” than when it does.