There’s a Method to the Madness

By Allison Spear – 11th Grade, Seneca Valley High School

For anyone who is not a part of the Summer Dreamers Academy at Assemble, seeing the classroom at work may seem chaotic. Kids all over are drawing, hot gluing, building, and whatever else you can possibly imagine. But soon, you can see the method to this madness.

In this classroom at South Hills Middle School, kids work in small groups, combining robotics skills and creativity to make their own robots. These robots are made from cardboard, tape, a motor, wheels, and a whole lot of imagination. With each group consisting of four or five students, it was easy to see the imagination and problem solving skills of each individual student. Each robot was different, yet built for the same reason: to win the bot battle.

Jonathan (the teacher) guiding one of the groups

Jonathan (the instructor) guiding one of the groups

Yes, that’s right. These students were working together for the common goal of winning the battle of the robots. Each group had its own unique tactic to the claim of champion. The groups were focused on protecting their passengers, also made from recycled materials, during the battle. According to one student, the prize for the winner was choosing the teacher, Jonathan’s, new hair color.

It was inspiring to see groups of young kids learning the art of working with a group, while thriving in something new to most, if not all of them. That was the whole goal of this class, from what I observed: Learn something new and discover what you love, which could possibly lead to a future career.

Unlike many other summer programs, the Summer Dreamers had complete independence.  They planned, built, and worked on their own. There were mentors supervising, but they rarely touched any of materials. They gave the kids advice, answered questions, and assisted them in tougher areas, but generally the kids knew what they were doing and were focused on their work. They were excited and ready to get to work.

Every student I’d asked if they were having fun, the answer was always a solid “yes”. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, other than typical, small disagreements between group members.  Most groups had split up so one or two members were hot gluing, and the others were at the table working on something else.

One of the many robots built by the kids

One of the many robots built by the kids

According to a TED Talk my class watched in school last year, companies are no longer looking for employees who simply know all the facts and can follow directions. They are more interested in employees who can think outside the box and be creative. The style of classes I witnessed at the Summer Dreamers Academy is not only fun and educational, but teaches skills, such as teamwork, creativity, and open-mindedness, now needed to have a successful career in the future.




IMG_3049Allison Spear will be entering 11th grade at Seneca Valley High School in the fall. She lives in Cranberry Township.  She participated in a summer camp at Pittsburgh Filmmakers to learn how to film and edit videos.  She enjoys marching band, strumming her guitar, and having fun with her friends.

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