FORT BENNING, Ga. (April 17, 2018) -- Fort Benning Schools dedicated a week to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs April 9 through 13 to equip students with the skills, abilities and knowledge that will prepare them for college and 21st century careers.

As part of STEM Week, students and teachers from Faith Middle School teamed up for the first time with robotics experts from Fort Benning's Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate April 9.

Patrick Hall, the Southeast District Instructional Systems specialist for STEM, who helped establish the partnership between CDID and the Fort Benning schools, said STEM Week and the School's robotics program prepares students for pursuing military careers and other 21st century careers by training them in critical skills such as coding, programming and building robots.

Members from TRADOC Capability Manager's Robotics and Autonomous Systems (Provisional), Fort Benning's office for robotics, spent the day with sixth, seventh and eighth graders, who not only watched demonstrations of various aerial and ground robotics, but applied active, hands-on participation.

One such robot was the Throwbot, which is a remote-controlled miniature ground system mounted with a small camera that gives the user immediate situational awareness.

"Our robots do the dull, dirty and dangerous tasks that get Soldiers out of harm's way," said Maj. Wes Brown, branch chief for Ground Robotic and Autonomous Systems. "It is a very easy thing to do with a cheap robot that you can throw into a second story building instead of sending a man in to possibly meet something that they don't want to see behind those doors."

Students were just as interested in how the Throwbot worked as they were in operating it. They asked questions ranging from how much it weighed to the cost of batteries and whether it could see at night.

The most fun was clearly the hands-on portion; the young operators took turns operating the controls of the Throwbot, which they navigated across the gymnasium to the delight of students on the other side, who were able to throw it back once it reached them. At one point, two controllers brought their Throwbots together, mirroring the moves of the other and giving the appearance of a synchronized dance.

"They naturally gravitate toward the technology and robotics," said Dr. Joan Islas, Faith Middle School principal.

This interest in science and technology goes along with the Department of Defense Education Activity's initiative for College and Career Ready Standards, which establishes high learning goals and provides military children with opportunities for success and growth in academic development.

"We are ensuring that our kids are ready, whether they're going to college or for their career track," said Islas.

She added the 21st century learning equips students with necessary skills, such as in spoken and written communication and in project-based learning, which can help solve real life problems.

Eighth grade student Alejandra Escobar particularly likes the coding aspects of robotics, and has her sights on a career as a mechanical engineer.

"I want to know how they put these together and how it can reach its goals," she said.

"They have to find the right materials," she continued. "Then they have to figure out how they're going to build it to carry out what they want it to do."

Aidan Knicely, a seventh grade student, sees robotics as work that is also fun, and credits his applied technology class teacher with getting him interested in robotics.

"Ms. Shaw likes to challenge us to build robots," said Knicely, who believes using robots will soon become a part of everyday life.

"This is where the future's heading," said Brown, looking at a group of students huddled intently behind a robot monitor. "It starts here."