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Gess robots to teach kids valuable skills

Gess Elementary students were thrilled to see the new robots had been delivered to the classroom. (Brandon Hansen Photo)

Gess Elementary students were thrilled to see the new robots had been delivered to the classroom. (Brandon Hansen Photo)

Gess Beyond class receives educational robots through donations

By Brandon Hansen/The Independent Staff

The enrollment at Gess Elementary is growing by four, as Beyond program teacher Jeff Kersey is bringing robots to the classroom. After getting kids grades 2-6 interested in technology with coding, he’s taking it to the next level with his students being able to engineer and code robots.

About a week ago, Kersey put a proposal entitled “Rural Robots for Enthusiastic Learners” on

DonorsChoose.org and on Facebook to help raise funds to buy four Vex IQ robots. An hour after posting, a company that makes airbags in Moses Lake – Takata Corporation – contacted the Gess teacher and offered to pay for two of the robots – which came to a total of $605.

“They use robots making airbags because they’re dangerous to handle in person,” Kersey said. “So this is a perfect way for them to introduce robots to kids.”

Along with Takata, Kersey got enough support on DonorsChoose.org to pick up two more robots for the total number of four.

“It’s great to see people that are so excited and care so much that they would give like that, and so fast, within a week,” Kersey said.

This means he has enough robots for each Beyond gifted class at the school. There are four classes ranging between six and 12 kids that meet for two hours every week with Kersey.
Currently they are learning programming on code.org, and what Kersey is excited about is that coding carries over to the Vex IQ robots. The company that produces the robots has made the software to program them free, and it’s similar software to the action-based programming the kids are already doing.

“Robotics is just a fascination of mine and of kids,” Kersey said. “It’s a way for them to work on higher thinking, problem solving and teamwork. These are cool because you engineer the robot before you start programming it.”

Kersey said he remembers getting his first computer – a TI-99 4A – that had “programming” where you had to type code in and record it with a cassette tape to play back so the computer could remember it.

Technology has changed a bit since then and Kersey is hopeful that this will spark interest in the kids.

“We’re a 75 percent free or reduced lunch school so this could give them an opportunity to get interested in a career that could lead to big things,” Kersey said.

The Vex IQ robots are designed for elementary kids, and also a precursor to the Vex EDR robots that Jenkins Junior Senior High School currently uses.

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