Breakthrough Norcross, after nearly two years of working toward establishing a collective impact project to improve educational outcomes for Norcross students, partnered with Beaver Ridge Elementary to offer a Robotics camp for their rising fourth and fifth graders. Students who are interested in the subject of Robotics were able to sign up for a weeklong day camp over the summer, and, as a  part of my summer internship with Georgia Center for Opportunity, I had the opportunity to check out what was going on at the Robotics Camp ­– dubbed Beaver Bots – last Thursday.

Environmentally, the robotics room is a collection of the parts, programs, and challenges for the robots that would be the primary tool of the weeklong camp. Two teachers facilitate the camp for approximately 30 students, who all spend most of their time in the robotics room. The Mindstorms, as the machines are officially named, are designed by Lego with the capacity to carry out a series of complex tasks. Various challenge courses are then set up in order to test the robots and their human operator through a diverse array of task completion.beaver bots1

The teachers lead each of the kids through the tasks at a very basic level that eventually handed over full reign of the robots and their programming to the kids. In fact, the teachers made it their mission to equip and not baby their students, and the kids loved it. The kids would cheer each other on through their successes and encourage each other through their missteps. Both boys and girls were learning to wrestle with the complex tasks assigned to them, and this development of perseverance – or grit as some call it – served as the crux for success in future tasks for the club.beaver bots

One of the students was so excited about her experience there that she couldn’t help but exclaim how much she loved working with her friends and other students. She remarked that it wasn’t about winning or losing, although that was a component of the camp; but it was about trying your hardest and having fun with friends.

Of course, there were winners and losers, but the winners encouraged the losers, and the losers cheered on the winners; and everyone was having fun. Furthermore, and most significantly, the kids were not criticizing each other for their initial shortcomings on the challenge field. In fact, they outright refused to submit to failure, consistently returning to  the drawing board until they found success.beaver bots2

Kids are playing with robots, encouraging each other, and carving a pathway into higher learning. It sounds utopic and in some regards it really is. It’s the start of something great, albeit unfinished. It’s just one small part of a larger story that’s unfolding through Breakthrough Norcross, and I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.


This blog was written by Patrick DeMartino.  Patrick is pursuing a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Georgia.  This is his second summer interning with GCO working to support our Solution Delivery work.

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