SAUGUS — The new middle-high school isn’t slated to open its doors until 2020, but students are already using it as a tool for learning.
The fifth grade Robotics Club, which meets at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School, visited the construction site to see firsthand how the material they are learning in robotics relates to the design and construction industry.
The group of about two dozen students visited the site to learn about technology and 3D modeling in construction, and how automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence can benefit design and construction industry completely.
“It was wonderful to watch the children interact with modern technology and learn about the endless career opportunities for their futures,” said Jeannie Meredith, chairwoman of the School Committee.
The children walked the site as a group to get a glimpse of the building’s frame, which is comprised of thousands of steel columns and beams. They learned about the technology used in day-to-day operations and how advancements of technology can alter the design and construction industry.
The club meets after school and is coached by teacher Bill Palmerini.
“These kids are so engaged,” said Palmerini. “They’re all here because they really want to do this. It’s wonderful for me as a teacher to see this.”
The program is funded by an $80,000 grant from FIRST Lego League and is intended to build an interest that can be carried on to the high school level. The dream is to offer robotics as a class at the high school, said Palmerini.
For the past two years, the team has competed against other children in the FIRST Lego League Challenge. The team created a robot and constructed various obstacles on their site map using Lego Mindstorms software and hardware kits. They completed missions to collect points, avoiding penalties for making errors. Each piece of equipment was created using Lego pieces and students took turns creating patterns on the computer that control the robot’s actions to complete missions.
After the club’s visit to the new school, they visited the Boston headquarters of Suffolk Construction, the construction manager-at-risk for the project.
Students watched real-time job site feeds in the company’s Smart Lab, practiced using data walls, and got a hands-on feel for what it’s like to use today’s technology in the construction management industry.
“The Robotics Club’s visit to our new middle-high school site and field trip to Suffolk Construction were fantastic opportunities for our students to see how what they are learning in Robotics Club can dramatically benefit and advance today’s modern construction,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “This is a tremendous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has been afforded to these students. I hope this experience may inspire at least one of these students to develop a passion that could turn into a life-long career path.”
When complete, the new middle-high school will be 270,000 total square feet, including a 12,000-square-foot gymnasium and capacity for 1,360 students in grades 6-12. It will house state-of-the-art science labs and technology classrooms, fine and performing arts classrooms and a 750-seat auditorium. In addition, plans include a new sports complex and outdoor track, walking paths, outdoor classrooms, and student gardens. Administrative offices will be moved from the Roby Building.
The school has two wings — one for the high school and the other for the middle school — with common areas on each floor, said Tina Stanislaski, project manager with HMFH Architects Inc.
The middle school side has three stories and the high school side has four.
Each floor has a central area with project space to celebrate Science Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM).