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Robotics and Stem education: A gift supporting student explorations at NWSS


Students follow their passions and take control of their learning….

It’s a welcome donation at an exciting time of transformation at New Westminster Secondary School.

Technology giant Amazon last week donated $15,000 worth of equipment that will support high school students as they follow their passions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

“I am proud that we are among those schools embedding coding and robotics into many of our programs,” said Tyler during a press conference in the NWSS Library/Learning Commons.

Curiosity is key, said Vibhore Arora, Amazon regional director for Western Canada.

“In doing so, we are creating variety and choice in what students learn and how they design their learning.”

Tyler said the company recently approached him after learning about the proactive approach to incorporating new and emerging technologies at NWSS.

“We were thrilled to discover not only that we’d been invited to provide a wish list of STEM equipment that we might want, but that we were to receive everything we had asked for,” Tyler said.

“This welcome and generous donation will enrich our NWSS student engagement with STEM exploration and make a big difference in facilitating student projects,” he said.


Curiosity, invention and simplification…

Seattle-based Amazon has recently expanded its workforce in Canada, establishing a ‘fulfillment centre’ last year in New Westminster and Delta. It is now considered among the largest employers of software engineers in the country.

Amazon’s regional director for Western Canada, Vibhore Arora, said at the event that one of the two principles inspiring leadership in the company is a drive to invent and simplify.

The other is curiosity. “Always be learning and curious!” he encouraged the students.

Mayor Jonathan Coté congratulates NWSS for its forward thinking approach to education…

City of New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté  applauded the work unfolding at NWSS and noted the city itself is on a similar journey into the 21st century.

“The world has changed as we have seen traditional industries leave our city and region,” he said. That’s  providing the “opportunity to adapt and make room for a new knowledge-based economy”  – evident in the  Intelligent New West initiative, for instance, which supports dialogue around the idea of becoming a SMART city focused on technology, collaboration and partnerships.

The annual Innovation Week event in New Westminster, supported by Amazon among others, also showcases not only technology, but the creativity, problem solving, collaboration, and “new ways of looking at things” that go with it.

“I’m deeply proud that our high school is pushing forward with this important trend,” said Coté.


Students demonstrate a robotic crane in action for media, New Westminster City guests, School Board representatives, Amazon employee guests and school district administrators…


Beyond the dinosaur age: changing the traditional model of learning…

Tyler explained that NWSS has been working to develop an ‘inquiry mindset” across the school — encouraging student use of technology  to express their learning in new and different ways. The fact that students are taking on projects that they design and drive themselves is also changing the traditional model of  learning, he said.

“When students are following their passions, they are in control of their own learning, and we encourage that.”

Tyler said that students at NWSS  are spending hours and hours in class, after school, and at lunch time on projects that fire up their imaginations, inspire collaboration across disciplines, and allow them to be creative with electronics, robotics, 3-D printing and design using VEX, AutoCAD software, programmable electronics and more.

NWSS Principal John Tyler says when students follow their passions, they are in control of their learning…

As both Mayor Coté and Board of Education Chair Mark Gifford somewhat woefully confessed, most of the trends in robotics and coding are beyond the dinosaur age they both feel more familiar with.  Gifford point to the books that lined the wall behind him and said they were more in his comfort zone.

Some of the student’s projects on display included a video games arcade that featured some 2000 game options; a mechanical robotic demonstration, and an electronic mask modelled on the Marvel Legends Iron Man character whose state-of-the-art suit of armour was designed to ‘crush crime and obliterate injustice.’  The mask featured  LED glowing eyes and took more than 60 hours of work on a 3D printer to produce. and electronic sound effects.

Engineering and Technology Education teacher Valentin Pontier, who  is among a group of teachers helping guide various activities, noted that technology projects that incorporate applied skills allow students to combine the theoretical and the tangible.

“Our goal is to encourage creativity in design, prototyping, and building projects while facilitating critical thinking and problem solving – and to have fun while learning,” said Tyler.