Rothberg Catalyzer

Promoting confidence, problem-solving, and creativity through Coding, Engineering, Robotics, and Biotechnology

Through the generosity of the Rothberg Catalyzer program, The Country School offers coding, engineering, and robotics across all grade levels to enhance our well-established, integrated STEAM curricular offerings. Students learn programming languages such as Scratch, Snap, and Python while using technology like Sphero, Lego WeDo, drones, Lego EV3, Makey-Makeys, and Birdbrain Hummingbirds. This, along with our inspired, creative teaching, involved school community, and Mission-based commitment to honoring our students’ creativity, sense of wonder, and intellectual curiosity, make a Country School educational experience unparalleled.

- Stephanie Johnson, Science Teacher and award-winning Robotics Coach

The Country School gratefully accepted a $50,000 gift from Drs. Jonathan and Bonnie Rothberg to encourage the growth of coding, engineering, and robotics in students from as young as three through 8th Grade. Jonathan Rothberg, Ph.D., is a scientist and entrepreneur who invented high-speed, “Next-Gen” DNA sequencing, a National Medal of Technology and Innovation awardee, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Bonnie Gould Rothberg, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., is an Oncology Hospitalist in the Oncology Extended Care Clinic at the Smilow Cancer Hospital and earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Cancer Epidemiology. The vision for their gift, according to Dr. Jonathan Rothberg, is to “focus on programming and robotics that will prepare students to lead in a technology-driven future.”

The Country School, a national leader in STEAM education, is proud to join Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Choate Rosemary Hall, where the Rothberg Catalyzer is already established. As parents of Country School children (Noah ’13, Elana ’15, Gabby ’23, Jacob ’25), Drs. Rothberg confidently presented their gift to educators committed to delivering cutting-edge curricula.

Their donation is a natural extension of the STEAM work that began here in 2011. Already, PreSchool through 8th Grade students participate in coding, engineering, and robotics as a part of their advanced coursework, extracurricular clubs, or summer enrichment experiences.The gift will allow these programs to flourish and become more comprehensive to inspire other schools.

It will also support the work of Country School teachers, who have been shaping our STEAM curriculum and sharing their learning with the broader public since the program was introduced on campus nearly a decade ago. Recently, Stephanie Johnson, a longtime Country science and STEAM teacher and robotics coach, was recognized for her leadership in the STEAM and robotics fields. This winter, she was named a finalist in the Connecticut Technology Council's Women of Innovation award for her work to advance STEAM learning (learn more). Last fall, she was named Best Mentor at the regional First Lego League Robotics tournament, where the Wise Guys Owls, one of two Country School robotics teams, qualified once again for the state championships.

Coding, Engineering, Robotics, & Biotech

Robotics

“Lifelong Learning Starts with Confidence. Students’ confidence in their ability to learn and solve problems sets them up for lifelong success”—Lego Education

Try something. See how it works. Try again. At TCS, coding, engineering, and robotics is the new playground. Coding, engineering, and robotics are tools that promote confidence, creativity, curiosity, collaboration, persistence, and solving problems, in an interactive, fun, engaging, and unique way. We are teaching coding literacy through design thinking and innovation, using tools that are accessible for all ages, genders, and technical backgrounds. We learn by play, to design, build, program, engineering, and reengineer-- learning to become producers, and not merely consumers of technology. We strive to educate our future inventors to be well equipped with technology literacy, problem solving skills, and the creative confidence, to develop solutions for future real-world problems.

Example of student learning inside and outside of the classroom

  • Gears and Simple Machines
  • Young robotics
  • All-girls robotics
  • Beginning robotics
  • Intermediate robotics
  • Drones

Awards and recognition

  • First Lego League Competition (FLL), (2013 ,2014, 2017, 2018) regional finalists
  • Best Mentor Award from First Lego League—Steph Johnson
  • Finalist in the Connecticut Technology Councils’ Women of Innovation Award—Steph Johnson

Programs and tools

  • Hour of code
  • Parrot Drones
  • Scratch
  • Scratch Jr
  • Blockly
  • Java
  • Tynker
  • Tinkercad
  • Snap
  • Python
  • Sphero
  • Makerbot
  • Hummingbird Robotics
  • Lego Mindstorms
  • Lego WeDo
  • Makey Makey
  • Micro:bit
  • Snap circuits
  • litteBits
  • Lego gears and simple machines
  • Vernier sensors, probes, and electronics and more!

Biotechnology

Biotechnology, a tool used to further understand and manipulate living systems, has become essential towards understanding biological process, and solving some of today’s most urgent scientific issues. Just as 'coding' has become impervious to our well-connected society, so has bio-jargon. Gene cloning, genetic engineering, synthetic biology, and personalized medicine have all become integrated into everyday decisions ranging from personal to the political. A new authentic model of student-guided science education focused on modern biological tools is required to nurture a science-literate population, allowing students to learn in a way that reflects how scientists come to understand the natural world. Developing scientific literacy early in the middle school years is beneficial to a students’ growth in scientific thinking.

At Country School, we have received some new and used biotechnology equipment, and employ a science faculty with extensive background in biotechnology approaches and technique, who have previously worked as scientists in academic and corporate environments. The combined effort of our generous school community and our faculty’s real-world experiences, allows a pilot biotechnology program to flourish at TCS. Students will be exposed to, and better understand modern technology platforms that are currently being used to build products and uncover bio-systems and processes in health and disease, laying a foundation for high school and beyond.

Example of curriculum of student learning using modern biotechnology tools

  • “Getting the DNA out “or DNA extraction
    1. Students determine what factors affect the amount of genomic DNA that can be extracted from a raw food sample.
  • “Visualizing DNA” or electrophoresis and quantification
    • Student learn how to further purify, prepare, and quantify a DNA sample to be loaded on an agarose matrix, which separates a mixed population of DNA fragments by size.
  • “Molecular scissors” or DNA digestion
    • Restriction enzymes are used to cut (digest) DNA into pieces before separation by size on an agarose matrix. Restriction enzyme mapping is then used determine the location and size of the DNA pieces.
  • “Making lots of copies” or DNA amplification
    • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using a thermocycler is used to produce millions of copies of a specific region of a DNA sequence. Producing a large amount of a DNA sequence is necessary for many downstream techniques, such as analysis of DNA in medicine and forensics.