STEM high school students create line-dancing robotic rovers

Calculators used to create ‘cool moves'

SAN ANTONIO – Reagan High School students competed Wednesday using their science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, skills to make robotic rovers created by Texas Instruments dance.

“We saw these kids in 30 minutes doing choreographed line dancing with their rovers,” said Peter Balyta, president of educational technology at Texas Instruments.

“The rover followed commands in the calculator and was able to move around and do some cool moves,” winner Samuel Garcia said.

The students used graphing calculators to create their rovers' moves.

“I never knew that you could use a calculator to code anything,” said Zachary True, one of the competitors. “I was proved wrong today. It’s definitely possible.”

Balyta said many students find robotics intimidating, but he saw the glimmer in the eyes of these students.

“They don’t even know that they’re learning essential skills and developing concepts that they’ll need in the workplace of tomorrow," he said.

Student MaKenzie Kennedy sounded as if she was very aware of what awaits.

“Everything is going to be run by technology and robots,” said Kennedy, who could be seen dancing along with her team’s rover. “I just thought it was really cool that you could program a little robot with a calculator.”

Kennedy said her math skills were a big help.

“You have to know your angles, degrees, how far you want to move up, how far you want to move backward," she said.

"The gears are moving, the wheels are turning, and when that’s happening, kids are learning," Balyta said.

About the Author:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.