Students at Walnut Hills Elementary are having fun with robots – and sneaking in lessons in math, problem-solving and coding at the same time! Fourth grade teacher Joni Gilchrist received a classroom grant from the Waukee Community Schools Foundation to purchase Edison Robots.

Edison is a programmable robot designed for the classroom setting. Students ages 4 to 16 years old can program the robots through simple programs on iPads, using barcodes, drag-and-drop icons or even the more advanced vertical text-based language.

On this particular day, Mrs. Gilchrist’s class of 4thgraders spread out in the library in groups of three to four students. They built obstacle courses using tubes and cups. Groups then used the app EdScratch to program their Edisons to maneuever through the obstacle course. EdScratch is a vertical block-based programming language. By building different blocks into their code, students could tell their robot to drive forward five centimeters, make a 170-degree turn, then drive forward another seven centimeters.

One group of boys built an elaborate obstacle course and got to work immediately, programming their Edison and testing it out. Another boy programmed his robot to “dance” and was thrilled to see it spinning in circles. A group of girls used a chair in the library as a tunnel and sent their robot through. Mrs. Gilchrist said that’s the awesome thing about the Edison robots: “There’s a lot of trial and error, and the system ties in math, problem-solving and coding.”

Sara Emerick is the school librarian and she also uses the Edison robots with 2nd graders. She takes a more simplified approach with the younger students. They use drag-and-drop icons that are time-based instead of distance-based. For example, 2ndgraders program their Edisons to go forward five seconds, turn left, then forward again for three seconds. Ms. Emerick said, “The system encourages kids to work on following directions. They get frustrated, which is okay, and we want them to, because that’s when your brain starts growing, when problem-solving begins.”


Mrs. Gilchrist received the robots just after winter break and debuted them at Walnut Hills’ annual STEAM Fest, a night devoted to Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics. Kids lined up for the chance to play with the new Edisons. She also plans on using them this summer in an “Intro to Robotics” summer camp. The Edisons came with additional tires, treads and are expandable with LEGO bricks. Mrs. Gilchrist said she’s really at the tip of the iceberg with the Edisons. “There’s so much we can do with them and so much for the students to learn!”

Check out videos of the edisons in action!


Under chair

Trying the turn