Connecting Students to Sierra College and Local Manufacturers

As the Deputy Sector Navigator for Advanced Manufacturing in the greater Sacramento region for California Community Colleges, Sierra College is forging connections with elementary schools to introduce students to the amazing possibilities of robots and technology applicable to manufacturing careers.

ROCKLIN, CA – Teresa Burke is a seventh grade English and History teacher at Lichen Elementary School in Citrus Heights who incorporates robots supplied by Sierra College through the California Community Colleges (CCC) Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development programย  into her lesson plans to demonstrate applications of technology. This partnership is introducing middle school students to role models at community colleges and demonstrating exciting local careers where they might manufacture products that make people healthier, safer and more comfortable.





Integrated Learning Opportunities

When studying medieval history, Lichen Elementary students built architectural replicas of buildings located in different cities in China out of recycled materials, explained Burke. The class placed the buildings on a gigantic map of China and programmed a Sphero ball shaped robot to roll from city to city. “The students found it so much easier to write about medieval history after they had a sensory experience of making buildings and ‘traveling” vicariously with the Sphero robot,” said Burke.

According to Steve Dicus, Deputy Sector Navigator (DSN) for CCC Advanced Manufacturing in the greater Sacramento region and housed at Sierra College, Burke’s creative use of robots in the classroom engages students and exposes them to the possibilities of technology. “To make technology available to all students so they would have access to coding and using robots, we supplied enough robots to Lichen Elementary school for an entire class to be immersed in the experience,” said Dicus. “Over the past two years Sierra College also offered the seventh graders tours of Technical Education classes and labs as well as the makerspace Hacker Lab powered by Sierra College and the new Haas Center for Advanced Manufacturing by Design at Sierra College.”

DSN Advanced Manufacturing contributions to Lichen school included 23 Sphero SPRK+ robotic balls that teach programming and 24 Scribbler3’s robots from Parallax that use interlocking blocks with readable text that lets beginners build programs in an intuitive, visually logical way.

Positive Influence

Burke explained that over 70% of the students at Lichen Elementary School in the San Juan School District qualify for free breakfast and lunch. “The enriching experiences with robots in the classroom in addition to the college tours can plant the seeds early for these students and influence their education and career plans,” said Burke. “We are grateful to Steve Dicus, Sierra College and the CCC Advanced Manufacturing program for providing these opportunities at such a formative age. These experiences build their confidence in their own technical abilities and introduce them to encouraging college faculty and student role models.”

Burke, a self-proclaimed technology geek, has led the charge at Lichen Elementary to better prepare students for careers that they’ve never heard of in Advanced Manufacturing. “Our teachers were so excited by what they saw at the Maker Faire Bay Area held in May this year,” said Burke. “Many of our teachers have benefited from donations as well as professional development seminars offered by Parallax, a leader in education technology, located in nearby Rocklin.”

Local Companies Involved

Local manufacturers are working with Sierra College and the Sacramento Valley Manufacturing Initiative (SVMI) to inspire students to aim their education plans toward the creative careers with Sacramento businesses using technology to manufacture medical and other beneficial devices that make the world a better place, explained Dicus who serves at SVMI education committee chair. “Local companies are eager to showcase the wide range of careers designing, selling, fabricating and managing the business of producing life-changing products here in Sacramento that are sold all over the world,” said Dicus. “We believe that by partnering with teachers and introducing students to both maker tools and role models, more students will focus on pursing education to prepare themselves for advanced manufacturing careers.”

Burke indicated that she was grateful for the support to connect her students to real world tools and manufacturing careers. “Sierra College faculty members were so welcoming to 60 seventh graders, especially when they were so busy winding up the end of the semester,” said Burke. “Steve Dicus is just amazing because his generosity supported teachers in bringing technology, math and engineering into the mainstream classroom through smart robots.”

Burke expects next year’s seventh graders are looking forward to robotic projects. “Students in the robotics club programmed a robot that performed in the school talent show,” said Burke. “It caught everyone’s attention and is just one of the many ways we are bringing robots into all aspects of our school programs to introduce every student to skills of the future.”

Photos: Courtesy of Teresa Burke

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