In RSU 20

Searsport students build skills, one Lego robot at a time

Proposed overall budget increase hovers at 7.8 percent
By Tanya Mitchell | Apr 16, 2014
Photo by: Tanya Mitchell Searsport fourth grader Dawson Bierwas tells the Regional School Unit 20 Board of Directors about about how he and his classmates created a working Ferris wheel out of Legos Tuesday night, April 8. Bierwas was assisted in his presentation by Technology Integrator Geoff Cyr.

Searsport — Searsport Elementary School students put on a show for the Regional School Unit 20 board of directors that was complete with items such as a working merry-go-round and Ferris wheel Tuesday night, April 8.

The presentation from the students and RSU 20 Technology Integrator Geoff Cyr, all of whom have been involved in the Lego robotics program Cyr started at Searsport Elementary about a year ago, served as a way to update the board on where the program has been and where Cyr hopes to take it in the future.

"This has been a personal journey for me," said Cyr, who said he first became interested in Lego robotics when he helped produce a show on that topic while he was working at a television station when he was a college student.

Cyr said the more he learned about the program, the more he recognized the potential for students to gain an understanding of many academic subjects, while also garnering a better appreciation for skills such as effective communication, problem solving and team work.

Last spring, with the help of the Perloff Family Foundation gift of six Lego robotics kits, Cyr said he was able to set up the first phase of the program, which was bringing it to students involved in the SES summer school program.

"We got the kits in early June, and we started building in early July," said Cyr.

Through the generosity of more donors and local businesses, like Front Street Shipyard, Cyr said the program now has 10 kits with which to work. Cyr has since finished the second phase, which included students involved in the after school program.

For the third phase, Cyr said he hopes to make the robotics program a part of the regular school day, and for the fourth and final phase, the plan is to develop a K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program with the robotics component being "a big part of that."

Cyr said the program gives students opportunities to apply science and technology alongside reading, writing and mathematics, in addition to the skills they learn from working together on a regular basis.

"To me, Lego robotics is a prime example of what we can do with project-based learning," said Cyr.

Six students came with Cyr to showcase a few of the projects the students created this year, which resulted from the course directive to create rides for a theme park.

One of the students presenting their work was Searsport fourth grader Dawson Bierwas, who spoke about the process of not only constructing a Ferris wheel out of Legos, but also the way the students used digital coding to program the ride, make the wheel spin, stop to allow an occasional rider to get on, and then restart again.

Cyr said once students got a handle on that process, they took their projects to the next level, adding ticket booths, admission gates and other features to make their pieces more authentic.

"They got to a point where they could take what they had built and create a story with it," said Cyr.

In other news, Finance Committee Chairman Tony Swebilius said the budget discussions at committee level have resulted in a budget proposal that would bring an across the board increase in town assessments up by about 8.4 percent, with the overall package showing an increase of 7.8 percent over last year's final budget.

According to information submitted from the RSU 20 Central Office to The Republican Journal this week, the committee will unveil the 2014-15 budget proposal at its next meeting Tuesday, April 15 at the Central Office. The meeting is set to begin at 5:30 p.m.

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Tanya Mitchell
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Tanya has been a general news reporter in Waldo County since 1997.


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