Art-making robots help make science fun for Raleigh students

They may have just been paper cups with markers, motors and batteries attached to them, but the little art-making robots became best buddies Monday for sixth-grade students at East Millbrook Middle School.

Students cheered on the ArtBots they had put together as part of a project designed to promote science, technology, engineering, art and math learning, popularly called STEAM. The activity was one of the many community service activities that 2,000 Lenovo employees are participating in worldwide as part of the technology company’s first Global Week of Service.

“It’s really fun,” said Jaylin Curtis, 12, a sixth-grade student at East Millbrook who named his robot Kevin. “It gives you a chance to experience a lot of technology.”

Locally, about 300 volunteers from Lenovo, whose U.S. headquarters are in Morrisville, lent their time Monday at three Raleigh schools: Southeast Raleigh High and Carroll and East Millbrook middle schools.

Juniors and seniors at Southeast Raleigh High did mock interviews with Lenovo volunteers and talked about future careers. Students at the two middle schools were taught STEAM activities developed by the Smithsonian Institution with funding from Lenovo.

As part of Smithsonian Learning Lab activities, students at Carroll digitally test flew a 3-D model of the original Wright Flyer and combined circuitry and fabric to create wearable technology.

At East Millbrook, Lenovo volunteers showed students how to assemble the components of their ArtBots.

“Our baby is moving,” Doshawna Martin, 13, told Jacqueline Gonzales, 12, as their robot drew circles on a page.

Outside, volunteers were doing landscaping projects at Carroll and East Millbrook.

“It feels good to give back and put in some sweat,” said Nick Schultz, a Lenovo volunteer who helped create a new outdoor garden at East Millbrook.

The volunteers turned into reality the vision that Joanna Caves, East Millbrook’s art curriculum coordinator, had for creating an outdoor space that combined science and art.

East Millbrook’s new outdoor area has a sculpture garden with benches where students can sit and reflect. They can play simple musical instruments at the sound station or watch sunlight coming through different Plexiglas-painted structures at the light station.

“We wanted it to be a place where students are able to connect sight and sound,” Caves said.

Lenovo will continue the week of service locally with activities such as inviting students to help refurbish computers for the Kramden Institute, a Durham-based nonprofit that gives renovated computers to low-income students.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui