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(Janesville, WI) By Nick Crow, Gazette

Ahtziri Sanchez had never experienced robotics or coding at her home school in Guadalajara, Mexico.

"I think it's a new experience, and at the time I wasn't 100 percent sure to come," Sanchez said. "But I'm so glad I did. I've learned many different things because, in my school, I haven't taken robotics or coding."

"It's new, and I like it," she said.

Sanchez was one of nine Mexican students who joined 10 Janesville high-schoolers at Craig High School's summer offering: 21st-Century Thinking Skills for a Global World.

"This is one of the first times we've offered an academic enrichment like this," said teacher Melissa Baier de Garcia. "I think it has been beneficial for both sides. They (Mexican students) have gotten to see a lot of our community. Janesville is quite different, but they are finding it to be enjoyable."

According to data from the United Nations, Guadalajara has a population of 1.5 million people. Its metropolitan area is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second most populated area in Mexico after the Mexico City metropolitan area.

This summer course was a first for Craig. Students spent two weeks splitting their time between courses in robotics, coding and global studies.

In the robotics course, Parker teacher Bob Getka taught them about designing and programming a robot and the basics of coding.

"The students are learning the skills they need," Getka said. "So many jobs now need these types of skills."

"There are so many places they can carry over, to things they may not have thought of before," he said.

Parker junior Jeff Waite, a member of Parker's Rock 'n' Robots team, volunteered his time to help the exchange students with their robots.

"I felt like it would be a good experience to deal with international students," Waite said. "They've picked it up pretty quick."

Getka said his goal is to help teach kids skills in robotics and coding they might not have learned.

"The Mexican students seem very excited to do something they've never done at their school," Getka said. "Each robot looked the same on day one. Over the last two weeks, the robots have picked up the personality of the students, and each looks different."

In the global studies portion of the program, students produced public service announcements about water scarcity. They also discussed water distribution in countries such as Nepal, Kenya and Ethiopia.

"The PSAs are designed to call attention to water crises all over the world," Baier de Garcia said.

The students created the announcements on computers with voice-overs, music and photos. The project was designed to create interaction between the American and Mexican students, while helping Janesville students practice Spanish and the Mexican students practice English.

"It's always interesting for them to make these connections," Baier de Garcia said. ""You're a teenager here. I'm a teenager there. But we're not that different. They work together and build friendships because of this program."

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