FREEPORT -- Three teachers from Carl Sandburg School spent part of their summer vacation building an underwater robot. This unique "gizmo" is the creation of Sindy Main, Erica Nieto, and Stephanie Garner, who spent a week building a robot at Shedd Aquarium at the end of July. The robot is designed to pick up trash in lakes and rivers.
It was Main who first learned of the robotics workshop. She said the concept sounded interesting, something that could be used in the classroom. As a science teacher, Main said attending the workshop would not only be a learning experience for her, but a great way to design something for the classroom to help students get excited about science.
Main was able to convince two of her colleagues, Erica Nieto and Stephanie Garner, to attend the workshop, which was paid for with money from the school science budget. The trio were among 20 teachers from the state who were accepted into the workshop. None of the teachers knew anything about building a robot, but Main said they were all up to the challenge.
"The Shedd Aquarium has held workshops like this in the past and when we first heard about it, it sounded like a great way to learn more about robotics," Main said. "Now that we have the robot, we hope to hold a class where students get to learn about building a robot."
Main, Nieto, and Garner built an underwater robot. The robot has four small motors and a camera, all guided by remote control. When used underwater, there is a small screen that allows for underwater viewing. The teachers were able to test it out in Lake Michigan. It really works. They used it 30 feet below the surface.
As a seventh grade social studies teacher, Garner said the experience of building a robot was fun, something she hopes will excite the students at her school.
"We tried it out in Lake Michigan and got to work around a shipwreck," Garner said. "This robot tilts and goes in all directions, which then scoops up the trash we see under the water -- it's all very neat.
"When we went to the workshop, we really didn't know what we were getting ourselves into," she added.
Main said she plans to talk to the school principal to see how the robot will be incorporated into the curriculum.
"This experience of building a robot was a lot of problem solving -- it's totally science and we need to get kids to be excited about engineering technology," Main said. "Now we have a model for our kids to go by.
"As a science teacher, I know the kids will love it -- they will learn math, how buoyancy works, science methods, and trial and error," she added.
Nieto said now that she knows how to build a robot, she has grandiose plans for something bigger and better.
"Building a robot was a total learning experience, and I can't wait to do more with it," Nieto said. "Now I want to get more complicated."