Aaron Shiver firmly believes that science fiction one day becomes science fact.
Shiver, the 34-year-old robotics team coach for the Coral Academy of Science Windmill campus, gets to see that transition in action nearly every day as he watches his students design, program and build robots that look straight out of a 1980s sci-fi film.
“Students are full of imagination,” said Shiver, who also teaches advanced language arts for the school. “I want to see how much my students can take of what I’ve given them and expand upon it.”
The work his fourth- and fifth-grade robotics team put in this year helped land Shiver on Henderson’s first “Mayor’s Honor Roll.”
Shiver and Coral Academy of Science fourth-grader Kisha Panchal received a medal and a certificate of recognition at the Henderson City Council meeting Feb. 20.
According to the city, the award was designed to “recognize Henderson students, teachers, administrators and support staff who demonstrate achievement in categories such as leadership, respect and integrity, innovation, volunteerism and love of learning.”
“Through the Mayor’s Honor Roll we are able to recognize outstanding individuals from our local schools …” Henderson Mayor Debra March said in a statement.
Shiver’s robotics team took second place out of 29 teams in the First Lego League competition. The league challenges teams to develop an engineering solution to a real-world problem and build a robot (with Legos, of course) that can perform certain tasks at an event where coaches like Shiver have to let the children operate on their own.
This year’s challenge was hydrodynamics, and the students tried to tackle the flooding problems facing Duck Creek. They chose to design and engineer a modern reservoir system. To help, Shiver took the team to the UNLV engineering department, where they figured out which ideas were realistic and what could work.
“We give them ideas, but it’s their job to figure out what to do,” Shiver said.
As for the design for the robot for the challenge, Shiver and the team wanted something that would stand out, and he gave them an idea from his childhood: the robot Johnny 5 from the 1986 film “Short Circuit,” which rolled around on two sets of wheeled-tracks and had two arm-like appendages.
Shiver said he helped teach the students how the basics of programming the robot, but the build, design and operations were all up to them.
“For me it’s not so much the reward of a trophy,” Shiver said. “It’s seeing the kids utilize what they’ve learned in a very effective way and hopefully utilizing it in the future.”