GTL Wales: Robotics Competitions and Medieval Castles

GTL Wales: Robotics Competitions and Medieval Castles

During IAP 2020, CEE student Rovi Porter taught Robotics and programming to students in Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales. 

What did you expect from your teaching experience in Wales?

I did not think that Wales would be very different from the US, but I was excited to meet people from the UK. The use of words like “brilliant” was really fun to hear. I expected the staff at the college to preview the work that I do and then guide me to show what they wanted me to do more specifically. I also expected to spend a lot of time researching what I was going to be teaching.

Tell us about your host community

After a 22 hour journey from Seattle, Washington to Haverfordwest, Wales, I was exhausted. Once I arrived I was greeted by the Vice Principal and Head teacher from Pembrokeshire College. We talked through some of the things they were looking forward to and what I hoped to get out of this. Throughout the three weeks they showed me around quite a few historical landmarks and community areas. I was able to meet the Minister of Education of Wales! I also visited the famous coast and St. Davids cathedral. One teacher, even took me and Elena (another MIT Wales GTL student) to her house and showed us coastal towns. The more I explored, the more sheep I saw! The farm lands made google maps look pixelated. My host also had two chihuahuas that we took on walks.

Pembrokeshire College’s motto is “Think more, Learn more, Do more”. Many people in the area communicate through both Welsh and English. However, the classes are taught in English. The college offers A levels (2 years before university), apprenticeships, and trade specific curriculum (ex. beauty, culinary, & plumbing). The college supports students in whatever their goals are, whether it is through to college or off into the work field.

Tell us about your teaching experience

I taught the students about robotics and programming. The mBot rangers and appropriate apps were used to test the students problem solving skills. I prepared for the curriculum by familiarizing myself with the robots and the program. I was able to build a robot and program it to do various things. I took some of my struggles and turned them into things I could teach on. I also used my background on teaching python and scratch to students as a base for my lessons.

I used my knowledge of Scratch coding to inform my curriculum. I also used some knowledge from 6.0001 to teach python. I did find some coding unplugged activities to introduce students to programming. My biggest challenge was being able to find online materials that were appropriate for the situation. It was stressful when I could not find what I wanted and ended up just creating my own activities.

When the students first arrived, I gave a talk on my experiences at MIT and some of the research and teaching that I had done to inspire them. I also was able to talk with students applying to US universities, art students, and sustainability engineers. Throughout the rest of my time at Pembrokeshire College I was assigned to teach the students about mBot Rangers (robots bought by the college prior to my arrival). I taught Computer Science, Engineering and IT students at the college who all participated in a challenge that I created at the end of the three weeks. I also helped out at two other schools: Ysgol Bro Gwan and Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi, where I helped students with more robotic activities. At Penrhyn Dewi I helped a group of students with the FIRST Lego League competition which they competed in at the end of January.

What did you learn about living in a different country and culture?

Living in a Wales has made me think about some of the things I took for granted as common knowledge. It was interesting to find out the way that they were taught history was in a different perspective than in the US which was something I had never thought about. Something that was difficult to get used to was driving on the different side of the road. This also introduced many ideas of how to be courteous to others in a new country. I was also surprised to find out that the teachers knew the parents of their students personally. It was different than what I was used to by way of how they do not have shopping malls like we do. They also go explore the beaches and environment as kids, being able to ride horses or go fishing. There were a lot of activities that seemed very fun!

What advice do you have for future students?

Wales is a rural country with about 3 times more sheep than people. The people are so welcoming and inviting. It is a very community centered, especially is west Wales where I stayed, as in people knew each other. Teaching is very much being flexible and able to adapt to things that don’t work out the way you expect them to. Everyone feels unprepared at first, but you will get the hang of teaching. It is also okay to not have all the answers, sometimes having the students figure it out for themselves is the best way for them to learn. Be confident in yourself and you will do great! Do not forget that you are in another country and there is so much to explore.