Starting young

Notre Dame concludes special robotics session for kindergarten through second grade students.

According to Innovation First International, Inc., the Greenville, Texas-based organization behind VEX Robotics, the path toward a passion for STEM starts early for children. They say elementary and middle school is the most formative time in a young student's life, something on which we all agree. 

"The best way to instill a lifelong interest in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, is to provide a fun, engaging, and hands-on opportunity to explore and experience it for themselves," Innovation First says.

That is why so many schools around the world are involved with educational robotics programs like VEX IQ. That's also why Notre Dame is getting its students involved at some of its earliest grades. In fact, even though VEX IQ starts officially for the kids when they are in the third grade, NDPMA is actually preparing them for a future in robotics as early as kindergarten.

Louise Palardy, who manages the Notre Dame robotics program, recently concluded a program that introduced educational robotics to lower-division students in kindergarten through second grade.

"We just finished a four-week after-school robotics program for K-2 grades," Palardy said. "Incredibly, we had 70% of the students participate, which bodes well for the future of robotics at Notre Dame."

Palardy's program was centered around the design cycle and included an engineering and design-themed book each week as well as design testing, a building activity and driving robots. The students were using VEX IQ parts so they could become familiar with the supplies used by the robotics team before they are old enough to join the competition team. 

"This program introduces the kids to the design cycle by testing common tools, planning a design for a new tool and then creating the new tool," Palardy said. "We use the VEX IQ current game piece, which is orange hubs, for our design challenge so we can repeat the program each year with the new game."

More about VEX Robotics
VEX Robotics is a leading provider of educational and competitive robotics products to schools, universities and robotics teams around the world. The VEX IQ and VEX EDR product lines span elementary, middle, and high schools with accessible, scalable, and affordable robotics solutions. Beyond science and engineering principles, a VEX Robotics project encourages teamwork, leadership and problem solving among groups. It allows educators to easily customize projects to meet the level of students' abilities as they inspire & prepare the STEM problem-solvers of tomorrow.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at