"Watch this. How do you like that?" an engineer asked a group of students, as they gathered around a metal object.
"Cool!" the children responded.
The object has certainly captured the students' curiosity. It comes with lights, batteries, and wires, and is the latest high-tech teaching tool. Its name is Squid-Bot!
"We put the suctions cups on it, and it stuck to the floor. Thus, Squid Bot," Steve Phillips explained.
Phillips is an engineer at Dupont. He helped Gulfport High students build Squid Bot two years ago for a robotics contest.
"We have used Squid Bot in a lot of schools, but the original competition was to push boxes around," Phillips said. "You can see, it's powerful enough to push kids."
Now, Phillips is using Squid Bot to steer kids at Pass and Delisle Elementary Schools toward Science and Engineering.
"We've seen a very marked decline in engineers in the industry, so what you see is guys with gray hair and young folks. There's very few in between," Phillips said. "My hope is they will get an interest in robotics and an interest in engineering, and start asking the questions, like can we have a robot team?"
The students seem pretty revved up about the lesson.
"I thought it was really cool, because we got to push the kids around in the box and things like that," said 5th Grader Kayla Ladner.
"I thought it was awesome, because you got to control it yourself. It was pretty cool," said 5th Grader Trea Ladner.
The lessons drive home more than just technology. The students also learn about teamwork.
"One student is in a box trying to be brought home, one's running the arm, one's driving the robot," Phillips said. "You fail, you fail as a team."
More than 200 fourth and fifth graders got a chance to operate the robot. Lynn Meadows and Dupont plan to bring the program to four more schools before the end of the year.