Glastonbury – Robots, equipped with high-level artificial intelligence, were unveiled at Glastonbury High School and quickly set off on their mission. Their mission – to further educate the already brilliant GHS students – was already underway.
The robots were among the many high-tech machines now housed in the school’s new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) lab. The lab, formerly a mechanic and carpentry shop and a small classroom, had a grand opening on October 6. The lab was completed last summer and opened for the new school year.
First year student Rishab Roopesh was seen walking a robot, named Nao, before asking Nao to sing a song – a request which was granted.
“We can give it voice commands to do so many different activities,” Roopesh said. “He can walk with me, he can also say hello to me, he can have conversations with you. He can actually learn things, so you can teach him to do more things that aren’t pre-programmed.
When asked if the robot could find Sarah Connor, Roopesh replied, “I don’t think so,” and added that AI teaches students how to code and program machines, through a better understanding of the capabilities of the machine. ‘IA.
“We’re learning how to program Nao and how AI as a whole works,” he said, “how you can teach things to act in a human way.”
The lab also includes 3D printers, multiple design workstations, and numerous tools of the tech trade.
Cheri Burke, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said the idea for the creation of the lab dates back to 2015.
“That vision is now a reality,” she said. “We are thrilled to have opened in August, on time, on budget, and the kids were there, creating and innovating.”
STEAM teacher Sheri Winchell-LaPlaca said the lab’s multiple stations will allow students to explore different aspects of design and think about the process of creating prototypes and real-life objects. One of the courses that will use the lab the most is Principles of Applied Robotics and Engineering.
“They do robotics, they think aerospace with drones and wind turbines,” she said. “We have a prosthetic hand that we build and program – we practice sign language with it, and a lot of other things.”
K-12 art director Holly Constantine said the lab will be used for design career coursework.
“It will open their eyes to what they can do as a career in art and applying that to design,” she said, adding that the students are currently designing parks and rooftops greens.
Constantine said the collaborative space will also invite specialists to help in specific disciplines and will primarily use programs found in Adobe Creative Suite.
Bella Weidmann, a second-year applied engineering student, explained how she used computer-aided design applications to create a sofa, an ornament and a doorknob.
“Computer-aided design is one of my favorite activities here, because of all the sketching and modeling. Seeing things become 3D and then come to life is really amazing,” Weidmann said, explaining how a computer drawing can become a model on the lab’s software and then be created on the school’s 3D printers.
“We use SolidWorks 2022,” she said. “They make us build something, and they grade it based on how it matches the original design they gave us. I can print it on the 3D printer, or I can print a brochure, kind of like a blueprint, of what I want to do.
Hudson Case, a junior, demonstrated how digital images can be manipulated, via PhotoShop, using photos of the Eiffel Tower.
“If you want a bit of drama, you can change it to black and white, and with just a little extra effort, you can add this dramatic contrast to it, and it really emphasizes the shadows and the light, and does that to the looks really imposing,” Case said.
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Susan Karp, former school board president who volunteered to help raise awareness and funds for the lab, thanked all of the donors who helped make the project possible.
“We’re not just improving our students’ futures,” Karp said, “but, in fact, since people like me are so dependent on them for their own futures, we’re all improving our futures.”
Karp added that the lab is, and always will be, a work in progress.
“What you’re going to see tonight – the equipment you’re going to see and the way the students are engaged – is the start, not the end. We’ll be looking to do more. We’ll be looking to add, we’ll be looking to innovate.
GHS Director Nancy Bean said the lab is a great extension of the school’s various technology programs.
“I think it’s such an exciting time for Glastonbury High School,” Bean said. “I’m so impressed with where it all started. To see this vision now, with so many people being part of this vision, is amazing and I am thrilled with what we are offering our students.
For more information, visit www.glastonburyus.org.
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