Northwood ES Students Learn to Program Robots at the Okaloosa STEMM Center

Northwood Elementary School students in Patti English's 3rd grade class visited the Okaloosa STEMM Center on September 25 where they participated in a robotics lesson, led by Beth Hanning of the Doolittle Institute, and a Cool Heat Sortie, led by Karen Sledge from Engineering and Technical Management/Services.  The students also had the opportunity to visit the Air Force Armament Museum.

At the STEMM Center, the students became the newest computer programmers in Okaloosa County as Hanning taught them programming vocabulary terms such as: conditional statement, loop, initialize, sensors, and variables. They learned how these terms apply to programming a robot and how these terms relate to their everyday lives.

“Students used what they had learned to complete their first programs that turned the motor of airplane robot,” said Hanning.  “The students learned about the different states of a tilt sensor and how robots are similar to humans because they take inputs from their sensors just like humans get information about their surroundings from their senses.  The students found that robots process information just like humans process information in their brain.  Additionally, the students learned about the outputs of a motor attached to a robot airplane’s motor are an output that moves the plane just like our muscles move our bodies.”

During the last part of the lesson, the students considered if computers and robots are smart like humans.

“Many of the students already knew how robots are different than humans because computers will only do what they are programmed to do,” said Hanning.

The Cool Heat Sortie, led by Karen Sledge from Engineering and Technical Management/Services, is offered in partnership with the Engineers for America (EFA) program.  EFA is an educational program that provides teacher workshops and student field trips that place emphasis on hands-on activities that relate to aerospace engineering.

In its seventh year of operation, the EFA program teaches students how to conduct formal experiments called sorties. These sorties address the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) concepts that are aligned to the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) New Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS). 

The Okaloosa STEMM Center and Doolittle Institute host STEMM workshops for K-12 students in Okaloosa County year round.  These workshops are sponsors by Engineers for America, the Air Force Research Lab, Engineering and Technical Management/Services, and many other organizations working on and around Eglin AFB and Hurlburt Field.

For more information on the EFA program visit

For more information on the Doolittle Institute, visit

For more information about the STEMM Center and STEMM Center programs, please contact Wanda Avery, STEMM Academy Principal, at (850) 833-4120 or