Getting a jump on robotics

New club gives Ozaukee Middle School students a taste of high-tech learning

OZAUKEE MIDDLE SCHOOL teacher James Peter (left) instructed students Ava Voeller and Kennedy Alexander in assembling their robot as part of the school’s robotics club. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press Staff

Students at Ozaukee Middle School in Fredonia are getting an earlier start in the field of robotics than ever before thanks to a new club.

Organized by teacher James Peter, 24 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, organized into four or five teams, are participating in the club.

Club members have begun assembling their first robots, which were purchased thanks to $2,500 in donations last year from charitable groups, including Ozaukee Mason Lodge 17, Fredonia Lions, Landt-Thiel American Legion Post 470 and Ozaukee Middle School’s Leo Club.

“That was enough to get us started,” Peter said. “We just really got into it this fall. We have been getting the kids familiar with the kits and learning to operate and program them.”

The plan is for the teams to begin competing against each other and against students from other schools by the end of the school year or next summer, Peter said.

The competitions involve completing a series of tasks such as stacking blocks, placing rings or balls in certain places, Peter said.

Peter also is an advisor to a club at Ozaukee High School that specializes in underwater robotics. He said he saw the need for something similar at the middle school level. 

“It’s recognition that our kids need more exposure to robotics starting earlier. The high school underwater robotics team is quite successful, and this gives our kids a head start on that,” he said. 

Besides assembling the robots and learning to operate them, students also learn programming skills, said Peter, who teaches  science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — classes at the middle school, as well as welding and machining classes at the high school.

“We use computer programming so we can expand what we offer at the high school and push the boundaries of what we’re doing at the high school level.”

The skills students are learning also will pay off after they leave school, Peter said.

“It’s something that our local businesses are looking for so we’re looking to have our kids better prepared to go into the workforce,” he said.

“They’re learning to follow directions on their own, problem solving and learning how to work in groups,” Peter said. “They’re learning how to think in a  logical manner, step by step.”

The club is open to all middle school students, Peter said. He expects it to grow.

“We probably will buy more kits for next year because the student interest is there,” Peter said. 

“There were more students than we were able to accommodate this year. It’s definitely something the kids wanted to do, so we went out to try to make it happen.” 



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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