My name is Kendall Work, and I am a freshman studying mechanical engineering. I work as a robotics trainer for VAST (USC Viterbi Adopt a School, Adopt a Teacher), and my main responsibility is to develop our BOTS program (Building Opportunities for Teachers in Schools) in which we help teachers teach coding and robotics to first- and second-grade students. To program the robots, the students need to write code that uses cardinal directions and angles, which aren’t taught until later grade levels. In order to help them understand the concept, I wrote the “BOTS Shuffle Song” which is a short children’s song to help the students direct the robots.
Kendall wrote BOTS Shuffle Song and made a video.
Although my passion for robotics was fostered in high school, I was introduced to Lego robotics all the way back in second grade. At that time, however, I had the opposite reaction. The material we were learning was challenging and, even worse, it was boring. This led to me being uninterested in robotics for many years until I decided to give it another chance in high school, taking it up as a club rather than a class. STEM outreach was a huge part of our team’s mission, so I began mentoring junior league teams and doing robotics demos at community events. I quickly realized that if I wanted the kids to love what they learn, I needed to teach in ways that were fun and exciting. Instead of teaching lessons, we made puzzles and mazes. We gave the students control as often as possible, and guided them only when necessary. The results were extremely positive, and the enthusiasm we were receiving was beyond encouraging.
Eli helps Professional Development sessions.
When I was tasked with making a song that would help students understand angle measurements for the BOTS robots, I immediately drew on my past experience of designing activities for junior league teams. I knew the song had to be simple, upbeat, and most importantly, catchy, so I spent some time researching children’s songs to see if I could produce the same effect. The final product is a culmination of my research and past experience. The track was made and recorded using GarageBand. The translation of the lyrics into Spanish was done by colleague, Eli Alfaro-Diaz, a freshman Psychology student who also works for USC VAST.
While music and engineering appear to be very disparate fields, their underlying processes share many parallels. Robotics is just as much a composition as a song: each component is a key part of what makes the robot function, in the same way each instrument contributes to the final piece. BOTS is so engaging because it allows me to exercise my creative potential in ways that don’t directly translate to engineering.
Kendall teachs students robotics.