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Students get a lesson in communication during Robot Day

Courtesy photo Nashua High School South students get a lesson during Robot Day from New Hampshire National Guard representatives Tim Huntley and Sgt. Zerk-Eli Manner on how to operate the Talon II robot, a lightweight, unmanned, tracked military robot that was developed to protect warfighters and emergency responders against explosive threats.

NASHUA – Robot Day at Nashua High School South last week focused on more than just technology and remote controls. It allowed participating students to study communication and get a glimpse of different future paths they could take.

On May 15, the school hosted Robot Day, during which teachers could take their students outside for a short lesson in robotics, along with interactive activities.

The day began with a brief introduction from members representing the New Hampshire National Guard. Then, students were off, rotating through four different stations.

Earlier this school year, Guard member Sgt. Zerk-Eli Manner arranged a visit with engineering students to introduce them to the Talon II robot, a lightweight, unmanned, tracked military robot that was developed to protect warfighters and emergency responders against explosive threats.

Students learned the Talon II has sensors to detect gas, chemicals, radiation and temperature in hazmat duties. It has many distinct features, including a manipulator arm, a gripper, and a microphone and loudspeaker.

Accompanying Manner during the first visit was fellow Guard member Tim Huntley. Both Manner and Huntley were in attendance during Robot Day.

The four main stations were U.S. Army radio communication

activity; blind mapping, during which a partner described a scene and a blind participant had to attempt to replicate the scene; blind robot operation, during which the partner who could see the field gave instructions to a blind robot controller; and lastly, a robot demo.

South Spanish teacher Wendy Dufoe was one of many teachers to bring down a class during Robot Day.

“I figured that it was a great opportunity to go down and let some of my kids explore and see what was going on,” Dufoe said.

“A lot of our students have engineering interests but we get a lot of kids who won’t take the class for GPA reasons.”

Currently, Career Technical Education (CTE) classes are less weighted than classes such as Advanced Placement classes, which can affect students’ class rank.

Nashua Technology Center Co-Directors Amanda Bastoni and Mike McQuilkin said during a recent Board of Education meeting that students deliberately aren’t choosing CTE classes they have interests in, such as engineering, because it may impact their class rankings.

“There’s so much out here for our kids that doesn’t necessarily have to be a college course or an AP course,” Dufoe said. “We have so many opportunities for our kids and I think it’s great that they can start to see some real world application for what we’re teaching them.”

Dufoe said her students were a bit hesitant to join at first, but ended up really getting into it. She also participated in the activities with her Spanish IV students, while she also enjoyed the activity.

“I thought it was really interesting. It was cool that they had the robots right there for us to use,” Dufoe said.

Dufoe said she wished she had been able to prepare in advance so her students could communicate the instructions in Spanish, which, she said, would be another good class connection.

Dufoe and her students participated in the activity during which they had to drive a robot to a location, without the person being able to see where the robot was going.

“This really was about communication,” Dufoe said. “The kids had to talk to each other and then communicate that skill set too, which was as simple as what direction they were going. They had to communicate with each other even when they knew what they were doing. I thought it was fun.”

Dufoe said she enjoyed the way the day unfolded because it allowed students to participate. She hopes this event will take place again next year.