Avondale Elementary School gifted with three robots and 3D printers.

One speaks Spanish. The other gives you a hug. The last one throws paper before cleaning it up. Not bad for three student-built and student-programmed robots.

The Avondale Elementary coding and robotics program was gifted the three robots—along with three 3D printers—from the Avondale Elementary School Education Foundation (AESEF) in January 2018.

According to Avondale Elementary mathematics teacher and technology specialist Gwendolyn Reynolds, the gifts—valued at $148.99 each—are a welcome addition to the classroom.

“The children are excited about coding and making them move,” Reynolds said. “The robots walk and talk and will do all the things they’re programmed to do.”

The robots were used by Avondale Elementary students at the 2018 DeKalb County Technology Fair on Feb. 3. Using custom code, the students instructed the robots to speak Spanish, give a hug and high-five, and sweep the floor.

“The kids are really excited to see them,” Reynolds said. “Some shout, ‘Let me see them!’ and others ask, ‘What does it do?’”

Avondale Elementary student Brody Wierda, who helped build the robots and competed at the 2018 Tech Fair, said he likens them to big toys. The robots also allowed him to show his passion for building in the classroom.

“It just lets me be me,” Wierda said. “I love LEGOs and they’re kind of like big LEGOs. Building stuff lets me clear my mind and think about other things. It’s just fun.”

AESEF also gifted Avondale Elementary three 3D printers. The printers—which vary in size—can produce a real, printable object using plastic and a computer-generated design.

With help from the 3D printers, in recent years, students have developed magnetic shoelaces, molds of popular fictional characters, headphone stands and other award-winning designs. The different sizes of 3D printers allow the students to accomplish more.

AESEF chair Keith Sagers said the foundation is constantly looking at ways to reduce barriers and increase opportunities to education.

“We’re constantly building and constantly looking at ways to raise the profile of the school,” Sagers said. “It’s a worthwhile endeavor. You couldn’t pay me to do this kind of work.”

Reynolds said the tools help Avondale Elementary students keep up with ever-changing technologies in the modern world.

“Building LEGO robots and then working with screws and allen wrenches are totally different experiences,” Reynolds said. “It takes a lot to put that stuff together. They advanced to the next level. We’re trying to get them ready for the 21st century, and they’re already used to it. We want to have our students doing what students at technology-based schools are doing. By the time they leave here, they’ll be exposed to it, and seeing a 3D printer or a robot won’t be a big deal.”

Reynolds said she hopes to have Avondale Elementary STEM-certified soon with the implementation of a STEM garden.