Eleven-year-old Sam Ma watches his LEGO robot perform one of the many tasks it’s programed to do at the Arbutus middle school creativity fair.

Eleven-year-old Sam Ma watches his LEGO robot perform one of the many tasks it’s programed to do at the Arbutus middle school creativity fair.

‘Creativity fair’ puts modern spin on traditional educational tool

There’s nothing Tanner Robertson-Green can do once his robot is let loose. And, as with most robot uprisings, the Grade 7 student’s creation doesn’t want to co-operate.

It takes trial and error before Robertson-Green and his fellow Arbutus middle school robotics teammates are able to show off their robot – and, as an extension, the skills of the team itself.

“We do all the programming on a computer. We can use sensors, timing, tell it to move forward, this many rotations. There’s a lot of ways to get it to do things,” Robertson-Green said of the team’s Lego Mindstorm robot.

The students are showing off their talents at Arbutus school’s second annual creativity fair. Similar to a science fair, students participate by making a visual display that demonstrates creativity.

“It’s been such a success,” principal Janine Roy said. “Students are highly motivated to become involved when they can share things they’re excited about.”

For Robertson-Green, that’s robotics. He and a team of schoolmates participated last year in the First Lego League, a timed event where groups build and program robots to complete a list of tasks. Now the rest of the school can see just how they’ve put their creativity into practise.

The halls are lined with more than 100 students showing off their projects – which range from creating computer games to writing, filming and editing a talk show.

“We’re very excited to see students applying what they’re learning in school to their interests,” Roy said.

Grade 8 student Joss Vrooman shows off Hat Maze, a Flash-based computer game he created and coded last summer and honed over the last six months.

The levelled game gets progressively harder, with enemies and obstacles getting in the way of a successful run.

“This is something I’m really enthusiastic about,” Vrooman said. “The coding is easy. Putting it into plays is more advanced. I’d like to be able to use this as a way to do school projects.”

Roy calls this a facet of 21st-century learning, where students are taking more control of their education by incorporating what they want to do into the lesson.

“Getting kids excited about learning is what we want to be doing. We use this as a vehicle for teaching students the specific skills involved in creativity,” she said. “By allowing students to share both things they’ve done at school and things they’ve done at home, we’re able to recognize they’re creative wherever they are. And it’s important to value whatever they’re interested in and celebrate what they’re excited about.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com