EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING
Gold Coast primary school students are pitching ideas to councillors and experiencing extraordinary success in robotics thanks to an inspirational state teaching finalist.
More than 130 students in Years 3 to 6 at Robina State School (RSS) are participating in before and after school, and lunch time, STEM programs, using the Lego EV3 and Spike Prime platforms, Vex Robotics and groups focusing on engineering and design thinking skills.
The programs are led by Year 5 teacher and curriculum leader Haydn Quinn, who switched to teaching after working as a Diversional Therapist with aged care and rehabilitation patients.
This year he is a finalist for the Queensland College of Teachers TEACHX Award for Excellence in Teaching.
In just their first year of entering competitions, RSS students took out first place in a regional Robot Games competition. They also qualified for the national finals in their first year of participating in the FIRST Lego League.
One year later, in 2019, RSS students won Grand Champion at the Sumo Cup, an event where robots fight each other, and in 2019 and 2020 they were named overall Champion for the Southern Gold Coast Primary Schools STEM Cup. They have also achieved many other placings in numerous STEM and robotic competitions over the past few years.
Mr Quinn said the decision to introduce robotics was initially made to give students better pathways into high schools that specialised in STEM and STEAM. It has boomed from there.
In the ‘FIRST Lego League’ competition, students take part in a research project that identifies and solves a relevant real-world problem, one group of RSS students proposed pop-up homeless centres in vacant shopping car parks, which would be visited by the Orange Sky free laundry service and Oz Harvest to provide food.
Another group of students pitched to a Gold Coast councillor that an old post office previously used as a STEM space could be used as a drop-in Maker Space STEM Centre. Another set of students have since proposed adjustable basketball rings for disabled children as part of a new park redevelopment in Robina, and that proposal has been taken up.
“That’s one of the things out of that FIRST Lego League program that I’m most proud of, that it gives students a real chance to look at things outside of our school and to look at the wider community and ways in which they can make changes,” Mr Quinn said.
“By looking at problems out there and identifying solutions, you are always going to be making the world a little bit of a better place.”
Mr Quinn said the robotics, coding and engineering that RSS was able to offer through its Innovation Hub provided students with opportunities to be constantly working in an inquiry cycle and to learn teamwork and perseverance, sometimes through failure, in a safe space.
“For our first two years, we were really successful with a certain group of students and then they failed. And I think we got more out of failing than we did out of winning, because it gave them that drive … that drive to succeed and keep going … they doubled down on how many mornings they were coming before school, they doubled down on how many lunch times they were coming. And the way that they supported each other … it really does bring me joy to see kids being able to learn lessons like perseverance and teamwork like that,” he said.
TEACHX Awards winners will be announced on 28 October, the eve of World Teachers’ Day in Australia. Finalists receive $500, and winners $5000, for professional development.