Learning how to make a robot that can sort a variety of marbles is one of the reasons the students in the VSHS Principals of Engineering class look forward to going to school each day

Using a variety of methods, the students in Marsha Furlong’s class recently created robots that can sort a load of marbles, separating the steel, aluminum and clear marbles into separate groups. The project is based on a National Park System trash-sorting hopper, since each project is based on finding a solution to a real-world problem.

Working in groups, the students made five robots, using a program called ROBOTC.

Ms. Furlong says they used a variety of techniques to get the robots to do the sorting. Some used light readers to determine which marbles are which; others designed technology to sort marbles by weight.

The students had to build a system to sort the marbles, as well as a binning system to store them after sorting. One group created a lever system to sort out the heavier steel marbles.

“One thing I really like about the class is how we work in groups,” says class member Casey Funk. “This helps brainstorm and solve problems more efficiently. But group work is also a challenge. Sometimes we don’t agree on something and we have to work it out. I also like how it helps us learn real-life skills that we can use in the future. And since I want to be an engineer, I like learning the basics of engineering and it’s solidifying that idea that I want to be an engineer.”

This is one of the major projects of year for the 2nd year engineering class, part of the Project Lead the Way curriculum.

“We work on activities that build up to projects or solving problems,” explains Furlong. Others used a programming tool called a line follower, which gives different readings based on what materials make up a marble.

As with other engineering classes, the students become intrigued by their projects and are excited to come to class, says Furlong.

“It is awesome how they get so involved in it,” she says.