New Developments in Upper School Computer Science, Engineering, and Robotics

STEM is one of the most rapidly expanding areas at Woodward, and in education more broadly. Last year, we had the privilege of chatting with new Lower and Middle School STEM teacher, David Makkers.

Recently, we caught up with Shelley Carter, Upper School computer science teacher and another recent faculty addition to our STEM program. Ms. Carter comes to Woodward having received her degree in chemical engineering from Hampton University, after which she worked in the industry as a Radiological Control Engineer. She then taught for 11 years—elementary school at Romar Academy as well as engineering within Atlanta Public Schools. Read on to learn a lot more about Ms. Carter and developments in Woodward STEM!

Beyond the Gate: Since you started at Woodward, has anything struck you about the school and/or the students?

Shelley Carter: Woodward Academy is wonderful. I really enjoy and appreciate working with students who are excited about robotics and STEM, and the staff is very friendly and welcoming.

BG:  What's your favorite part about working with high schoolers?

SC: ...Seeing their growth and development from freshman to  senior year. I like that in robotics and independent study their work is self-guided and open-ended. The students have to synthesize all of their prior knowledge to complete projects. There are no correct answers, the project works or it doesn't, and there is no partial credit. This is were students apply everything they have learned from kindergarten to this point in order to solve problems.  

BG: What's your favorite part of your classes / programs?

SC: Robotics 101 is my favorite class. I believe that class learns the most new skills—lean six sigma, engineering design process, tool training, marketing and community outreach. They use these skills to build robots that complete a specific task. I also love teaching Digital Design because the students learn a marketable skill that they can utilize immediately. I have a student who took Digital Design last year and has 2 clients in California for whom he is building websites!

BG: Could you describe a project or two that students have worked on?

SC: My Advanced Robotics class, while preparing for the First Robotics Tournaments in Gainesville and Columbus, built and programmed a robot in six weeks, prepared a marketing campaign, and constructed a full-sized competition pit in the lab.

My Independent Study class wrote an app to scout teams at robotics tournaments. They also will build a drone kit for our outreach team to share with the Primary School and build a working skateboard and arcade-sized video game machine.  

The Digital Design class programmed a website with all original content to sell an actual product. And Robotics 101 applied 5S principles to the FRC pit and prepared it for competition.

BG: What's your vision for computer science at Woodward?

SC: My vision for computer science at Woodward is to grow the engineering and robotics offerings to include engineering graphics, mechanics, and capstone courses, as well as to grow the number of female students in the computer science and engineering courses at Woodward.

BG: Why is STEM programming important?

SC: I think STEM and robotics team are important because every student at Woodward Academy can go pro in computer science and engineering, and these programs help make our students competitive applicants for future programs. Also, there are a lot of students who have technical skills and hobbies who need an outlet for this brand of creativity.  

BG: Anything else interesting or exciting you'd like to share with us?

SC: This is the inaugural First Robotics Competition Team at Woodward Academy, W.A. Robotics #6925 (we previously competed in VEX robotics, but now that is a Middle School program). We have expanded the robotics lab to include a full tool room, CNC machine and third printer. We will offer new classes this year like Engineering 101 for students who are interested in engineering but don’t want to focus solely on robotics.  
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Beyond the Gate: The Woodward Academy Blog is a gathering place for our community members to share all of the remarkable things happening at Woodward in the classroom and beyond. Our talented faculty and staff will share their ideas and philosophies as well as news about the programs and activities that make the Academy special. We’ll also hear from students, alumni, parents, and other members of the War Eagle family. We invite you to explore and share your comments! Would you like to be a BTG blogger? Email marcom@woodward.edu.