Students fly drones, watch robotic dog

Bingo, the robotic dog, doesn’t have long flowing fur or a fluffy tail.

But it can dance and roll over.

That was enough to delight children at St. Paul’s Lutheran School at Arlington on Monday afternoon.

As part of National Lutheran Schools Week (NLSW), grade school students had the opportunity to fly drones, maneuver bug bots and experience virtual reality.

Jeff Ingraham, chief operating officer of Prairie STEM, said six staffers came to the school to engage students in the activities and help them understand the importance of science, technology, engineering and math.

“Hopefully, they can see themselves in a career like that and be the next astronaut, the next engineer that designs incredible inventions,” Ingraham said.

Third- and fourth-grade teacher, Dana Schmidt, smiled as she watched students use touchscreen tablets to steer small drones and try to land them inside hula hoops or baskets.

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Like Ingraham, Schmidt believes these experiences benefit students.

“It gives them an opportunity to learn about technology using the drones and it’s fun,” Schmidt said, adding, “Not many get the experience to play with or use them. It’s also a good opportunity if they want to see if that’s something they want to do when they grow up — be a drone driver.”

Students flew the small drones inside the school gym.

Fourth-grader Noelle Warm and Molly Peterson, a third-grader, carefully monitored a tablet while guiding a drone.

“It was a lot of fun,” Molly said afterward. “The obstacles were fun to go around.”

Activities were divided into stations in different locations within the school.

While drone stations were situated in the gym, Ingraham said about five different kinds of robots — including the robotic dog — were in the cafeteria.

“It’s the only one in the Omaha area that we’re aware of,” he said of the robot dog.

First- and second-graders laughed and waved at Bingo, the dog bot, especially when it stopped and rolled over. The robotic dog danced and pranced and sat up, too.

Before seeing Bingo, children had the opportunity to use tablets to make small, insect-like or arachnids-like robots scurry around a ring.

The children donned costumes as part of NLSW.

Dressed like pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lydia Petersen reminded attendees of a much earlier era even as she and Katelyn Hilgenkamp, decked out in kitty ears, used tablets to guide their bug bots.

Ryan Jess, who wore a Black Panther superhero costume, paid close attention as he monitored his bug bot.

Students in another area laughed as they steered robot cars.

First- and second-grade teacher Shelly Meyer smiled almost as much as the students as she saw them with the bug bots and car bots.

“They are having fun,” Meyer said, adding, “I hope it sparks an interest in the sciences and technology.”

Not far away, students were able to don virtual reality headsets. By definition, virtual reality involves a computer-generated, simulated experience that gives the user the immersive feel of a virtual world.

“We have 82 different educational apps loaded on them that lets the students take virtual field trips or experience space, the space station,” Ingraham said.

Meyer said different activities are planned each day during the NLSW celebration.

“We choose fun things to do that are educational for the week,” she said.

Breakfast with Mom is planned for Tuesday morning with a dodgeball tournament that afternoon. Chapel is Wednesday. Breakfast with Dad is set for Thursday morning. That afternoon, students will attend a movie in Fremont. Grandparents Day is Friday afternoon.

Leaving the school, visitors drive along rolling hills and tall, stately evergreen trees with snow-covered branches.

A windmill in the rural area is reminiscent of a time long ago.

Yet inside the Lutheran school, students were looking into the future as they guided drones or wore virtual reality headsets or cheered on a robotic dog named Bingo.

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