UMEI Christian High School Reveals New Robotics Tech Zone

November 22, 2022 was a big day for UMEI Christian School. In the presence of many local dignitaries, the school officially launched its new Robotics Tech Zone, a space where students from Grade 9 – 12 actively study hands-on Robotics for one period (72 mins) per day.

There are almost no desks in this space. It’s all hands-on learning — building and coding robots to complete challenges designed by the teacher.

The Robotics Tech Zone houses UMEI’s 4 year Enriched Robotics program, the only one of its kind in Southwestern Ontario. This program is part of the learning curriculum, from the Technological Studies curriculum.

Students in all grades receive credits toward graduation. Grade 12 receive a university/college credit.

Grade 11 and 12 students are also part of teams that participate in the FIRST Robotics Challenge, an international event which has recently come to Canada.

As part of this program, students learn much more than Robotics. They learn to create PR and marketing materials. They present to local businesses for sponsorships, and they design logos among other skills necessary in the business world today.

When asked about careers these students could look forward to after graduation, the list of opportunities was long: mechatronics, mechanical engineering, robotic engineering, computer engineering, the trades and electrical wiring, among others.

From its humble roots when the program was housed in UMEI’s Electronics lab, it quickly outgrew its space. The school continued to modify to keep up with the demand.

A few walls were taken down here and a few closets were removed there. But the program continued to grow and eventually a bigger space was required. After taking inventory of the options, Vice Principal Darcy Bults set his sights on the auditorium. Previously used for fundraising meals, it was repurposed into the Robotics Tech Zone.

As a testament to its popularity, today over half of the student body participates in Robotics. Although it is not required, the program is extremely popular with UMEI students.

Head of Enriched Robotics John Fittler explained the program best.

“At UMEI, the Enriched Robotics Program provides students with the opportunity for hands-on learning almost every day. Students are presented with a task or challenge that requires a robotic solution. Using a variety of parts including Lego and aluminium kits, students will design and build their robot to conquer the challenge,” he said.

“Numerous sensors are introduced which can detect light and distance. Programming is also an essential part of the course. The greatest end result of this course for your student is the ability to diagnose problems while formulating solutions. These are attributes which benefit lifelong learning regardless of the profession entered.”

Feedback from the Open House on November 22 was incredible. Guests were extremely impressed with the program and, even more so, with the students.

Among the visitors to UMEI on that day were Mayor Hilda MacDonald, Deputy Mayor Larry Verbeke and Councillor Tim Wilkinson of Leamington, as well as Mayor Dennis Rogers and Councillors Debby Jarvis-Chausse and Sheri Lowrie of Kingsville. Also in attendance was Councillor Lauren Anderson of Chatham-Kent Ward 1.

Several local organizations sent delegates including Manager at Leamington Chamber of Commerce Wendy Parsons,  Executive Director at the Bridge Youth Resource Centre Krista Rempel, and Business Development Advisor of Community Futures Essex County Charlene Houle.

Proudly representing UMEI were Principal Sonya Bedal and Vice Principal Darcy Bults as well as Past Chair of the UMEI Board Steve Enns.  Director of Enrollment and Community Engagement Chani Wiens was also on hand to greet visitors to the school.

According to UMEI, Robotics is the future. Society today faces any number of issues. We deal with labour shortages, and long wait times for medical procedures. People in war-torn countries need humanitarian aid.

These are just a few of the challenges that the world must deal with. UMEI’s robotics course helps in two ways.

First, there could very well be robotics solutions to the above mentioned problems, and many others. The school is partnering with greenhouses to think about automation, and with the medical field to explore robotic surgeries.

UMEI students completed a project that had a robot delivering humanitarian aid over a blown-out bridge. Our students are starting to think about these solutions and are being trained in the skills required.

Second, the world needs problem solvers with the patience, collaboration, determination, and ability to fail that comes with true problem solving. Robotics at UMEI is teaching all of these problem-solving traits while incorporating leadership. The Robotics Tech Zone is helping by delivering this world class program.

Photos provided by UMEI Christian School

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