This summer, while some kids were at home chilling on the couch or hanging out with friends by the pool, a group of 15 middle school students were spending their time exploring underwater robotics.

Aquabots is a summer day camp for one week promoting science, technology, engineering and math concepts utilizing Lego Mindstorm Robots. The camp is sponsored by Franklin Simpson Educational Excellence Foundation, HARMAN and Simpson County 4-H.

Simpson County schools, Community Education hosts the camp at the Franklin-Simpson High School Career and Technology Center. This summer, Matt Staggs, a Franklin-Simpson Middle School sixth-grade science teacher, and his wife Amanda Staggs, an Ohio County Middle School eighth-grade science teacher, instructed the camp.

Students attending range from having advanced knowledge in programming Lego software to having never touched Legos. The Waterbotics curriculum starts with programming basics and familiarizes the students with Lego equipment. The first lesson provides an opportunity for experienced students to mentor and teach novice students. This reinforces their depth of knowledge increasing their own confidence to teach others. Taylor Alford, a rising sophomore at FSHS, attended camp the two previous summers. Taylor returned this summer to volunteer as a mentor to the other students.

Community Education invites local engineers to visit the camp and present during lunch break. This summer, Mary McDaniel, Engineering Intern, Berlin Woodall, Process Engineer, Randee Durham, Human Resources Manager, and Sharon Cox Sr. Human Resources Generalist, stopped by the 2015 Aquabots Camp to observe Engineering Design Process and problem solving methods, software programming, robotic equipment, teamwork and achievement.

This is the second year HARMAN has co-sponsored this activity with particular focus of developing interest in female students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) career paths. In 2013, HARMAN kicked off the Women's Network as part of the company's Diversity and Inclusion strategy. The vision of the HARMAN Women's Network is empowering women to achieve superior results that create a competitive advantage.

Sponsorship was provided by FSEEF and HARMAN this year purchased the additional equipment necessary to complete a classroom set for future use during the school year. Aquabots is another example of the innovative approach adopted by Simpson County schools in supporting the Next Generation Science Standards.

In June 2013, Next Generation Science Standards were approved to be Kentucky Core Academic Standards for Science (Science KCAS) by the Kentucky Board of Education. As reported by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences, engaging in the practices of science helps students understand how scientific knowledge develops; such direct involvement gives them an appreciation of the wide range of approaches that are used to investigate, model, and explain the world.

Engaging in the practices of engineering likewise helps students understand the work of engineers, as well as the links between engineering and science. Participation in these practices also helps students form an understanding of the crosscutting concepts and disciplinary ideas of science and engineering; moreover, it makes students' knowledge more meaningful and embeds it more deeply into their worldview.

The actual doing of science or engineering can also pique students' curiosity, capture their interest, and motivate their continued study; the insights thus gained help them recognize that the work of scientists and engineers is a creative endeavor—one that has deeply affected the world they live in. Students may then recognize that science and engineering can contribute to meeting many of the major challenges that confront society today, such as generating sufficient energy, preventing and treating disease, maintaining supplies of fresh water and food, and addressing climate change.

Any education that focuses predominantly on the detailed products of scientific labor — the facts of science — without developing an understanding of how those facts were established or that ignores the many important applications of science in the world misrepresents science and marginalizes the importance of engineering. (National Research Council Framework 2012, pp. 42-43).

For information regarding Aquabots or other learning opportunities provided by Simpson County schools, Community Education, please call 270-586-3809.

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