Jefferson School 5th Graders Learn Coding Through Dash the Robot

“We have a new challenge mapped out on the floor for DASH,” said Jefferson Middle School Library Media Specialist Julie Livengood to a group of fifth graders. “The challenge is to have DASH go through the maze and at each ‘x’ stop and do something that you program in your iPad. His eyes can blink, turn DASH around or say something. Remember, I want you to collaborate and talk to each to work through coding this program.”

These lucky fifth graders were using the robot, DASH, as a culminating activity in their coding activities in Julie Livengood’s ACCEL enrichment class.  DASH became available through BOCES just this year. As Mrs. Livengood’s class has been coding all semester at, she felt this was a perfect ending to their semester. Students learned to transfer the coding completed on the computer into programming a robot through the app “Blockly” on an iPad.

But, it’s not so much coding that is being learned – students had already learned that early on in class – but life skills such as teamwork, persistence, patience and risk-taking. In many ways, it’s the process of coding DASH, which is most valuable.

“What was most interesting for me was to see the various ways each team tackled the problem,” said Mrs. Livengood. “In the end, they all understood that watching each other and learning from one another’s mistakes leads to success. Although students are presented with a challenge, they jump at the chance to solve it. Unlike many other situations, when the students make a mistake in their work (programming), you don’t find them complaining or giving up — they WANT to work at it until they get it right. Plus, in their eyes it’s like getting to program a character straight out of a video game!”

The students loved working with DASH and coding during the semester.

“It puts your mind to work,” said Jefferson Middle School fifth grader Cameron Micciche. “It makes you think outside the box. The challenges are hard and you have to work through each step. If you mess up, you re-do it and fix it until you solve the problem. It’s so much fun because instead of a piece of paper, you are using an iPad and a robot to problem-solve.”

posted on 02/09/2017 - filed under: Academics, Middle School, Spotlight, Students, Technology