SHERIDAN — Ten children spent most of this week at Tongue River Valley Community Center playing with Legos. However, rather than building a fire truck, skyscraper or train, the kids were creating lions that roar, monkeys that drum and alligators that snap their jaws.
Using grant money from the University of Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium, the community center was able to purchase two specialized Lego sets and host a robotics camp this past Monday through Wednesday.
“The ‘Simple and Motorized Lego’ robots take the kids from simply building the mechanism, to adding a preprogrammed motor to it,” TRVCC Director Erin Kilbride explained.
“Each device or mechanism comes with different size gears and wheels to help the students understand what the different sizes can do,” she added. “The ‘We Do’ Lego robots are more complex devices that hook into a computer so that the student can actually do the programming of the device or robot. It’s very cool.”
Three mini-camps were offered earlier this year, but this is the second camp that offers more in-depth building skills. Kilbride said the kids can build complex robots such as boats, planes and even a soccer goalie, and are able to program them to move, speak and react.
“The idea is to get students involved with learning about robotics, mechanics, engineering and building while using integrative thinking and problem solving skills,” she said.
To complete the robots, students follow step-by-step instructions on a computer to construct their robot, then hook the completed robot to the computer via a USB cord to program it to move or create sound.
“I’m just into robots,” said Jason Barron, who along with his brother Michael, was participating in the camp. “It is really fun and it is only our first day. My brother and I are going to make a sea plane where the propellers spin.”
“You have to follow instructions really well. You can’t use substitute pieces,” Zia Robbins added. “Sometimes, if you leave out one piece you have to start over. We had to do that last time. Our team forgot one piece and it was in the middle and we had to do it over again. But it was really fun to see how the thing worked and how to understand it.”
With the enthusiasm shown by the participants, Kilbride said she hopes the center will be able to continue the robotics camps and also expand to include a competitive club.
“Our plan is to hopefully develop a robotics club and hopefully make a competitive team,” she said. “They do have competitive teams around the state. There was a big championship in Casper in March. That is our ultimate goal.”
“I think it would be fun because we are very experienced with Legos,” Jason Barron said about the possibility of competing on a robotics team. “I think we have a very good possibility of winning. We are pretty good at building.”