Combining Chess With Robotics

Meadows Elementary and Career Center exchange lessons
By: Todd Martin
An age-old game of strategy combined with modern technology, bringing together a pair of schools and a pair of classes to learn robotics and chess together.
Two fourth-graders from the Meadows Elementary School chess club visited the Killeen ISD Career Center Thursday to interact with advanced robotics students and the Fanuc robotic arms they are learning to program.
The younger ones, award-winning chess team members, taught the older ones a few moves on the board and the older ones taught the elementary students about the robots they use similar to the larger ones common in industry settings.
Fourth-graders Gavin Salge and Wilson Rutherford declared their new high school friends pretty good at chess for beginners. Robotics students junior Aniyah Toney and senior Chris Riley said the young guys were attentive students.
The robotics courses are new to the Career Center. The Robotics Practicum class offers students a chance to work toward a professional Fanuc Robotics certification. The two robots are smaller versions of a common manufacturing sector version.
Robotics teacher Jason Arrabito decided learning to program the robots to play chess would be a good way for his students to learn. So, they went to work on a 100-move chess game, which was especially challenging since they didn’t know a lot about the game.
One day, Stephanie Young, campus technology support specialist at the Career Center noticed Riley with a chess board. New to the Career Center after many years as the campus technologist and chess club sponsor at Meadows, Young was intrigued.
When she found out about the robotics class’s assignment, she started to arrange a field trip from Meadows Elementary School on Fort Hood to KISD’s specialized career-focused high school.
“He had me beat three times,” Riley said of his fourth-grade chess mentor. “He showed me how to do a four-turn checkmate and I taught him to use the robot. It was really cool.”
Both Rutherford and Salge took turns playing chess against Riley on a board, teaching various strategies.
Next, the younger students divided between Riley and Toney to learn to use the Fanuc robots.
“We were learning to program robots to play chess,” Rutherford said. “It was super fun. I liked using robots.”
“It was interesting to see how robots work,” said Salge, “and I got to teach him chess. He did a good job.”
The two fourth-graders both said they enjoy the strategy involved in chess.
“I was able to show him functions, how to move the joint to move the pieces,” said Toney, explaining how to use the remote control to move pieces on the board. The high school students fashioned the chess pieces with a 3D printer.
“It feels nice to teach others,” she said. “Maybe they will decide to get into engineering. I like the feeling of teaching others. They showed a lot of interest.”