Empowering a New Generation of Programmers

Sheree Wilder

6th, 7th, and 8th grade Robotics Teacher

Acadiana Renaissance

Charter Academy

Youngsville, Louisiana

In Sheree Wilder’s classroom,
teaching programming with
LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education
EV3 is like teaching students to
speak a new language. It starts
with building foundations, requires
repetition and ultimately gives
students the ability to improvise
and create in a “language” that
was once completely foreign.

She begins in 6th grade by working
with iPads and the MINDSTORMS
app to teach basic programming.
For many students, this is their
first exposure to coding, and it
starts with moving simple steering
blocks forward, backward and
to the sides. “MINDSTORMS is an
excellent platform for beginner
coding students since it is visual
and uses drag-and-drop command
blocks,” she says. From there,
they learn about sensors and how
to program them to accomplish
different challenges.


In 7th grade, students use the
MINDSTORMS software to program
their robots using advanced
programming blocks, demonstrating
range and proportions. Wilder
teaches them to log data, conduct
experiments using different
sensors, and graph their results.
While they began with simply
using the MINDSTORMS app in 6th
grade, she says that in 7th grade
they are already more versed
in the language of coding. “We
use the full educational software
version on laptops, which opens
up the math and advanced
programming blocks that we use
for data logging experiments.”

As a warm-up activity, Wilder
uses Code.org with her students
for the first 10 minutes of every
class.“This has been beneficial,” she
says, “because it introduces and
reinforces computer programming
terminology. That way, students
are able to understand the
basics of programming languages
and transfer their learning to
MINDSTORMS and other languages.”
Like any language, coding requires
repetition to reinforce the information
and help students feel self-assured
in the skills they have developed.

“I was proud that they embraced the challenge to create a program on their own, and it showed they were confident in their skills.”

Sheree Wilder
6th, 7th, and 8th grade Robotics Teacher, Acadiana Renaissance, Charter Academy, Youngsville, Louisiana

By the time Wilder’s students
reach 8th grade, they have become
confident coders, with a fluency in
the language of coding far beyond
where they started in 6th grade.
They are now able to expand even
further on this knowledge and use
of programming languages by
learning to program their robots
using Graphical Robot C.

One particularly memorable moment
that illustrated this new level of
confidence in her 8th grade students
was when she set up the SumoBot
Wrestling Challenge. The wrestling
ring consisted of a white circle with a black border, and the goal was to
program autonomous robots that
used color sensors to stay within
the ring while trying to push
their opponent out.

“One pair of students told me they
wanted to try a different program,”
Wilder said. “I showed them one that
was a little more complicated and
they did try it, but they preferred
the program they had first started
working on themselves. I was
proud that they embraced the
challenge to create a program
on their own, and it showed they
were confident in their skills.”

This confidence extends beyond
her classroom as well. In addition
to reinforcing the skills they learn
in other classes throughout middle
school, Wilder says that “having
LEGO® Education materials available
to our students has allowed them
to see the potential for a career in
robotics and programming.” She
adds,
“I often get the response that
they didn’t realize ‘coding’ could
be a career.”