At Taylor, we believe that practical experience is a must for career success, not just an optional part of an academic plan. For students majoring in Elementary Education, especially for children with special needs, last month’s Unified Robotics State Competition gave the unique opportunity to serve the community as well as gain more hands-on experience in their specified career field.
What is Unified Robotics?
Unified Robotics is a competition designed to partner individuals with disabilities alongside those without disabilities as an extension of Special Olympics underneath the Unified Athletics Organization.
New to Indiana as a whole, this year is the second year that Unified Robotics has been made available to schools in the state. Last year for the grand premiere of Unified Robotics, the league hosted regional competitions, but this year they turned their sights on a larger undertaking in terms of a state competition.
The county co-op director, Lisa Graham, reached out to Melissa Jessup, Assistant Professor of Education last spring to extend an invitation to Taylor to host the state competition for Unified Robotics on November 6, 2021.
Jessup immediately brought the idea to Grace Miller, Dean of Natural and Applied Sciences. Miller knew that it would provide a wonderful way for Taylor students to receive hands-on experience in their field of study. Not only would the education department be involved in the planning, organizing, and volunteer power, but other departments would be invited to serve as well, including Physics & Engineering, Psychology, and Kinesiology.
Sharing Christ’s Love to Community
Jessup recruited 38 eager Taylor student volunteers. She called them “TU Volunteer Ambassadors,” because they not only were at the event to represent Taylor well, but to ultimately share the love of Christ to the community.
Fifteen participating schools came from all over Indiana. Each team consisted of one teacher from the representation school who acted as the coach and six student participants. These children included three children with disabilities and three children without. Working alongside each team was a TU Student Ambassador from the Education department tasked with the job of aiding each team.
Using the Lego Robotics Kit, each team was tasked with building a robot that would be able to perform certain tasks within the time constraints of 2 and a half minute runs, while staying on the map. Danielle Nobles-Lookingbill, Associate Professor of Engineering, and her students helped schools who requested assistance with coding because they were familiar with the coding software being used in the event.
Jessup stressed how important it was that the community saw the students serving during this event.
“Yes, we always say we want to represent Taylor well, but even more importantly, we want to represent Christ well,” Jessup said. “This service opportunity is really about being the hands and feet of Jesus.”
For many of the elementary students, it was their first time on a college campus and it could be very overwhelming. Taylor’s goal throughout the event was to facilitate a fabulous experience on a college campus for the children that attended the event. After the competition, event participants were able to further experience college life at a home football game against Indiana Wesleyan University.
Serving Well Beyond Competition Day
Prior to the Unified Robotics event, each Student Ambassador met with their assigned team weekly over Zoom. This gave the elementary students a chance to get to know the Taylor students, so that when they arrived on campus, they would feel known and welcomed. It also allowed the Taylor students to assess the needs of the students on their team, so they would be able to offer adequate support to them during the event.
Jessup related the intentional process to the Taylor Towel. “It's really about loving one another and serving one another, “ she said.
This event truly pulled together all of Taylor’s strengths through serving the community in a collaborative nature over multiple departments. Students gave the gift of their time in serving the community and in turn gained invaluable experience in their own field that they will take with them after Taylor.
Find out more about studying Elementary Education, Special Education, and Engineering at Taylor University. Got questions? Start the conversation by emailing email@example.com.