One of the things I’ve been able to do this year is teach robotics, using the Lego MindStorms NXT system, at the Academy for Science and Design chartered public school, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. I volunteer two mornings a week, and teach two different student groups, numbering about 10 each. Until December, the program focused on FIRST LEGO League, in which we were competing. Since then we have taken up building robots for an intramural robot Sumo competition.
A few weeks ago, we mentioned a requirement of ethical behavior in class. One of the kids pondered, “Why should I care about ethics?”
“Because God requires it,” I replied. (Just because I’m working in a public school, there is no reason to pretend I’m not a Christ-follower. I don’t beat them over the head with it—indeed, it hardly ever comes up—but it is the foundation for my moral beliefs, including why we need to behave in an ethical manner.)
“But I’m an atheist,” claimed the student, “so that doesn’t apply to me.”
“Well, then,” I suggested, “The FLL program requires it; your school requires it; and this class requires it. Will that suffice?”
A few moments later I asked the student, “So, you’re an atheist? Really?”
“Honest to God?”
“Ye—waaaaaaaaiiiiiiiit a minute.”
We’re still laughing about it.