Rick Vollick watched 24 elementary school students have a blast playing robot soccer last summer at Spartanburg Community College after kids spent a week learning how to make robots move.
The experience has led Vollick to dream and wonder about whether Cherokee County students are ready for bigger things as he looks to increase student exposure to robotics. He operates 21st Century Learning in Chicago where his education company offers a variety of after-school programs, including instruction in animation, robotics and video game programming.
Vollick sees robotics instruction as an opportunity to teach all-important STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math.
“I see children hungry for STEM education,” Vollick said. “These kids are most appreciative for every opportunity and absorbed everything they could during the robotics camp I did at Spartanburg Community College last summer. I would like to have robot kits in every elementary classroom in South Carolina. The reason is by the 4th and 5th grade most kids have already formed in their intellects what their main interests are going to be.”
Vollick spent last week in Gaffney where he is working with KNOW(2) and Bethel Baptist Church Rev. J.W. Sanders Jr. to organize robotic camps for a second straight summer. Students will learn the basics of motors, remote controls, working with sensors and computer programming skills to bring robots to life.
There will be a KNOW(2) robotics camp June 13-16 at Gaffney High. A total of 24 students can participate in the class for students in first through third grade. There will be a separate class for 24 students in grades fourth through eighth grade.
Students will leave the camp with an education kit so they work with their own robot during the school year.
“This will be an interesting summer,” Vollick said. “When we talked with Gaffney High about hosting the robotics camps, principal Dr. Raashad Fitzpatrick said he was interested in having us to do a similar camp for the high school. I will be doing a robotics camp July 25-28 at Gaffney High for incoming ninth grade students. I will teach robotics and STEM lessons as part of the high school’s summer bridge program.”
The Cherokee County School District is discussing the idea of adding robotics as a pilot school project after district administrators met with Vollick.
“The school district is considering the implementation of robotics for elementary students during the school day,” district chief academic officer Kim Bagwell said.
Community business leaders will be invited to a May 2 luncheon to learn more details about the elementary and high school robotics camps this summer. Sanders said he wants to provide scholarships so students with limited financial means can attend the summer robotics camps.
“My parents were very passionate about the importance of education,” Sanders said. “There were many students who were able to attend the robotics camp last summer who might not normally have the opportunity to do so. I saw how excited the kids were about what they learned, so we wanted to expand our involvement in robotics camps this year.”