OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The Ocean Springs School District wants to build future engineers and scientists at a very young age, try five years old. When you think about building robots, you tend to think it's geared towards students at the high school or even middle school level. But, not anymore. This year, Ocean Springs students will be exposed to engineering and robotics the moment they set foot in kindergarten.
This week, elementary school teachers in Ocean Springs are playing with toys and getting their hands on a lot of cool technology. It looks like fun and games, but the teachers are actually training to teach Robotics to very young children.
"We like to see our kids design a better seat belt, design a better water filtration system that can save money around the world. We want those kids coming out of Ocean Springs," said Ocean Springs Upper Elementary Math Teacher Paige Phillips.
For years, the robotics program has been offered at Ocean Springs High School. Three years ago, it expanded to the middle school. Now, through a $16,000 "Project Lead the Way" Chevron grant, robotics will be introduced to students at all four elementary schools in Ocean Springs.
"It's going to help our kids be able to be inspired through science at an early age and they're going to be able to go through, starting in the kindergarten level, go through 12th grade and get jobs in the STEM program," said Ocean Springs Upper Elementary Math and Science Teacher Kellye Bolar.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Students will apply those concepts to solve a problem, like how to build a car that can survive a serious crash. Then, they'll do hands-on activities, using KNEX kits to design and build a project and put it to the test. Every student will use iPads to get instructions, programming, and download apps.
"There's even art projects. There are some parts that you build things with pipe cleaners, and you build paint brushes with feathers and Styrofoam balls. Think about it, even the most basic toys that they play with have been engineered and designed," said Phillips.
"Right now, the kids that are graduating high school, they are not going into those STEM careers. It is our job and what we want to see is those kids actually going to high school, taking those AP science and math, then graduating and going to college and taking classes to become those scientists," said Bolar.
By exposing children to robotics at an early age, the lessons will continue to build as they get older.
"I am so excited. I know my kids are going to have so much fun with this and all the teachers are going to have fun with it too," said Bolar.
The next goal for the district is to expand the Medical Detectives program to the lower grades. That involves forensic science and crime scene investigations.