OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Oak Ridge Schools is turning its young students into STEM fans. 

Trudy Cartagena uses the Sphero Indi robot in her kindergarten class at Glenwood Elementary School to help students develop pattern recognition and problem-solving skills. 

The car-shaped robot uses colored tiles to teach kids about programming.

“They’ve picked up on it really quickly and I’m just very impressed with how well they’ve done,” said Cartagena. 

The kids use the different colored tiles to give the car instructions, letting them create mazes. The block-based coding teaches early learners to think better and sets them up for academic success. 

“They learn from an early age not to be scared of technology. They see iPhones, they see Android phones, they see iPads at home so when they come to us, they don’t have that fear of the device,” said Heather Henderlight, the ORS Instructional Technology Coordinator. 

Henderlight says the district integrates tech in the classroom at all grade levels, so every child has access to information and digital tools. 

“We start small in Oak Ridge. See what works, see what our kids like, what our teachers are interested in using in the classroom and then we scale it from there. Rather than buying a lot of things and saying use this it kind of comes from the teachers and student interest and we build from there,” said Henderlight. 

Not only has playing with the Sphero Indi turned into a rich computer science experience, but it’s also teaching young students how being wrong can help them learn. 

“My favorite part of this whole experience introducing technology to Kindergartners is to see them explore and make mistakes and know it’s okay and go back and try to fix it. If it doesn’t work or we don’t know what to do, we just say let’s try it,” said Cartagena. 

Henderlight says the district only has one robot kit so her goal this year is to purchase additional kits and get them in more classrooms.