Knoxville Home School Assistance Program Offers Robotics

Two elementary aged boys work together to build a robot.

The Knoxville Home School Assistance Program (KHSAP) serves home school families in the Knoxville Community School District by: providing curricula of the parents’ choosing through a growing resource lending library; the support of certified teachers who are fellow home school parents; classes to enrich students’ home education; and other activities such as open gym times, field trips, and social gatherings.

A program of focus for the 2020-2021 school year for KHSAP has been robotics. In the spring of 2020, Stacy Picard, KHSAP Coordinator, and Carrie Carter, KHSAP Supervisory Teacher, received an award from the Iowa STEM Scale-Up Program of two VEX IQ robotics kits. The kit came with two robot “brains” and many robot pieces.

On Thursdays from December to April, students ranging in grades 4th-10th gather to participate in robot building challenges. In the beginning, students had the goal to get the bots to move forward and backward in straight lines. After four months of challenges, the complexity of the robots have progressed and they can now pick up items. Not only do students have to work together to build the robot structure, they also collaborate to use software to program the robot or move it with a remote control. The trial and error process is ongoing but in the end, collaboration prevails and the bots continue to progress.

The robotics program is an answer to the recent push in education for students to be involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs. Robotics combines all of these concepts and students are able to see their learning in action. Carter believes that when students can see results and different subjects working together, it encourages them to be active learners. “Students are able to see what they are learning become real world concepts. This is preparing them to be creative thinkers. It also gives opportunities for problem solving and to be the directive of what they want to learn.”

Picard and Carter both communicate the advantages for families who home school to become involved with KHSAP. The program gives students access to equipment and opportunities they may not have otherwise. The VEX IQ robotics kits are thousands of dollars and would not have been a possibility without the association with the Knoxville Community School District. There are many skills that are being developed this year with the KHSAP robotics program but the recurring themes have been leadership, problem solving and teamwork.  

To learn more about the Knoxville Home School Assistance Program, click here