Young robot engineers live ‘dream come true’ at library
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Evan Enghauser grinned as he watched his robot roll up and over the lid of its storage box, whirring along until it reached the edge of the table and he had to pick it up to keep it from crashing.
Enghauser, 8, had snapped the robot’s parts in place and then tapped an iPad screen intently for a few minutes to program the bot to roll forward until he told it to stop.
Elementary-schooler engineers at other tables watched their own robots explore the room and studied their instructions to teach the bots how to make noise, roll forward and stop.
A robotics camp for second- through fourth-graders runs daily this week at Evansville Public Library’s Red Bank branch, part of the library’s summer programming. While the room was close to full Monday, there are still a few open spots.
Kids built an explorer robot from a Lego kit and learned to program the robot to move forward and stop. Video instructions from the kit showed the engineers how to build bots for speed and strength.
“It’s to introduce them to the concept, a little bit of coding,” said assistant branch manager Kimberly Barber. “This explains it on a level that a kid who’s never been introduced to robotics before can understand it.”
Enghauser’s grandmother Janet Naas brought him to the Red Bank library Monday afternoon.
“They like challenges, and you want to keep their imagination going,” Naas said.
At Barber’s request, kids shouted out ways they could use robots, such as to work on homework or build cars.
Robots could help with household chores “like getting something down from a really high shelf,” said Jenna Schimmell, 8. She and her mother, Melissa Schimmell, worked together to build a two-wheeled robot that looked like a Mars rover without solar panels.
On the other side of the room, 7-year-old Ian Mefford - wearing a shirt printed with a robot diagram - clicked through the instructions to put together his own explorer.
“This is like his dream come true,” said Lisa Mefford, his mother. “Robots and Legos together.”
They homeschool year-round, she said, so she checks the library event calendar often to find events Ian might like. They’ve also visited Wild Wednesdays, a program at EVPL where kids take on engineering and science projects such as constructing a tower of notecards that can support a stack of cookies.
“We’ve been so happy with what the library provides,” Mefford said.
Later, kids will learn about robot designs that mimic animals, to understand how engineers think about design.
“Why would you want a robot that moves like a fish? Like a frog?” said Barber, who teaches the class. “What would you use that for?”
Even though the classes come with instructions, kids love the chance to explore and show their thought process, said Mallorie Cloum, EVPL communications content strategist.
“Kids really like the opportunity to be creative,” Cloum said. “It’s an hour where they get to use their brains and think about things in new and challenging ways.”
Barber said the robotics camp had good turnout at Red Bank and the other library branches that have hosted it.
“The kids are really enjoying it,” she said. “We encourage parents to participate with them and they’re having as much fun as the kids are.”
Source: Evansville Courier and Press, http://bit.ly/2sXAtvn
Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com