STEAMing Through the Middle with Robotics

Grant Applicant
Heidi Bushway Verkler
School Site
North Tahoe School
Grant Category
Career Technical Education (CTE)
Grant Date
Description (10 points)

STEAMing Through the Middle with Robotics is a program that will peak and propel the middle students interest in coding and robotics in the STEAM elective classes at North Tahoe School while addressing several of the Career Technical Education (CTE) Standards and 21st Century Competencies. The students in the STEAM elective classes (5th, 6th, 7th & 8th Graders) currently engage in block programming with the free online program Scratch (, which is provided to the public by the MIT Media Lab. The 6th, 7th & 8th Graders take that learning further by creating and interacting with the Lego Mindstorm robotics kits in using blockly programming in creating challenges for their Lego robots. 

STEAMing Through the Middle with Robotics will expand upon the knowledge gained through block programming and allow the long term STEAM elective students (3 classes of 7th & 8th Graders) to take the next step in programming and robotics and to help prepare them for the Career Technical Education (CTE) Pathways ( offered here in the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. Parallax, a company based in Placer County and founded by local parent and entrepreneur, Ken Gracey, created the Cyber:bot Robotics Kits. These robots use the industry standard programming language of python. Parallax works in conjunction with National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC) ( by offering free professional development tutorials for teachers and extensive curriculum for students. The Parallax robotics kits will provide several options to fulfill many goals in the STEAM lab while keeping the middle school students engaged in the design engineering process. 

The tutorials and curriculum for Cyber:bots is quite extensive. Students will be able to collaboratively work together in teams, apply their understanding of engineering and design process gained in the STEAM elective class, and be able to use those skills when creating robots to compete in online, teacher and student initiated challenges. 

Benefits of Program (10 points)

STEAMing Through the Middle with Robotics is a program that will benefit the students who have chosen STEAM as their year long elective at North Tahoe School. 7th and 8th Graders will expand upon their block coding and programming skills learned in 5th and 6th Grades by applying their knowledge to another programming language, python. This programming language is used out in the field and is the industry's standard language. Utilizing this language will better prepare students for elective classes in high school as well as prepare them for the Career Technical Education (CTE) Pathways: the Systems Programming Pathway and the Engineering Design Pathway.  This program could possibly capture a student's interest as a possible career in coding and computer science. These robots could easily be showcased during the District STEAM Fair. 

Success of Program (10 points)

Success of implementing a newly expanded robotics program could be measured and assessed through the engagement of the students, their reflections during and after their new learning, as well as through public display showcasing what students learned about robotics and programming. Students will be interviewed and asked about how they could utilize their new learning in real world challenges and how working collaboratively with their peers by designing and engineering a robot for specific challenges could possibly help them in their future.

Implementation (10 points)

Students who choose to participate in the STEAM elective class all year will benefit the most if this project is funded. The idea is that students will learn about engineering and the design thinking process as well as refine their coding skills the first trimester. Near the end of the first trimester students would start utilizing the Parallax and robotics curriculum and start creating, building, reiterating their creations and working on challenges throughout the second trimester. The third trimester students would be able to start sharing out their learning and their robots during Open House and the District STEAM Fair.

Can you share this grant with your grade level or subject team?

This grant could benefit many of the students at North Tahoe School. The offering of being able to expand upon the robotics program could possibly encourage more students to try the STEAM elective program. The grant information can be shared with the other 7th and 8th Grade teachers, and could allow me to possibly work in unison with the math and science teachers to support and expand upon their core curriculum concepts. The students in the STEAM elective program will benefit the most and this knowledge and expertise can be shared with others during the school Open House and possibly during the district STEAM Fair.

If funded, this grant is sustainable on it's own. There are several components that can be added to these robots, however, many of which can be conjured up by the students through the reiteration process in the engineering and design thinking process and made with recycled materials that already exist in the STEAM Lab and are added to consistently by the students. The Measure AA Tech funds allotted to North Tahoe School could also be utilized if parts became broken or needed to be expanded upon. Plus, having the benefit of having the founder of Parallax within the community to help assist is extremely beneficial.
Amount Funded
Individual Budget Items(s)
$4500 - Cyber:bot Robot Kit
$1800 - micro.bit Club Bundle
$405 - QIT Line Follower App Kit
Budget Notes

The numbers included in the attached order would support 3 classes of 25 students per class. This curriculum will be utilized over two of the three trimesters. 

Other funding sources

Ken Gracey and I have met to discuss the Cyber:bot robots and the implementation of these robots in the middle school. This collaboration could possibly lead to trying different components for these robots in the future. 


Funding this project would allow the STEAM students to collaboratively work together in creating exciting, new and engaging robots while learning a new programming language.