Computer science program visits robots at UNR

Indian Valley Academy’s computer science program takes a trip, plans big (data)
Posted on 10/10/2018
IVA students get up close and personal with a robot at UNR.

At the end of September, computer science students from Indian Valley Academy visited the University of Nevada, Reno campus to meet a Google engineer and learn about cutting-edge robotic technology.

Chester Cun, a software engineer from Google, talked to the students about his job, his daily routine, and how Google project teams work together to accomplish assigned tasks, said Ryan Schramel, IVA teacher and site director.

“He highlighted the collaborative nature of the process and the requirement for team members to be both flexible and adaptable due to a dynamic work environment,” said Schramel.

Afterward, the students were able to tour UNR’s robotics department. There, said Schramel, they saw a variety of current projects “ranging from drones and smaller desktop robots to large robots capable of accomplishing difficult tasks that require fine motor skills.”

The trip was arranged by new IVA math teacher Tirrell Baum, who graduated from UNR and maintains connections with the computer science department there. Baum also teaches IVA’s computer science classes. 

This special trip marks the one-year anniversary of a generous donation to IVA from the Gimple family (Bill, Judy, and Tom) and Christian Palmaz. “It was their collective vision and support that inspired the computer science program,” said Schramel. 

The school was able to purchase iPads, which are assigned to computer science students, and two classes are now offered: computer science foundations and introduction to coding.

“Looking to the future,” said Schramel, “we hope to continue to develop students’ coding abilities using a combination of Apple and code.org curriculum.” He said students also plan to build their own robot.

“We also want to get into big data projects,” said Schramel. Through the support of additional donors and university connections, he hopes to acquire a celestial bodies program, “basically a dataset that contains all the known locations of the various celestial bodies.”

“Our hope is that we will have a project where students are using computational thinking to determine the center of the universe,” said Schramel. “That’s going to require a big learning curve but we think it will be fun and well worth the effort!”

As the Indian Valley branch of Plumas Charter School, IVA serves kindergarten through sixth grade at its Greenville location, and seventh through 12th grade at its Taylorsville location. For more information, call 530-284-7050.

In the photo: Indian Valley Academy students get up close and personal with a robot at the University of Nevada, Reno’s robotics lab. From left: Jacob Cook, eighth grade; teacher Tirrell Baum; Kaidyn Holland, ninth grade; Jack Joseph, ninth grade; Emma Kingdon, 10th grade; and Jess Tyler, 12th grade. Photo courtesy Indian Valley Academy