Children gather around an obstacle course constructed on top of a large table. Scattered along a roadway made of tape are volcanoes, buildings and lakes made of paper.
The children’s eyes are fixed on a small robot making its way across the course. With fascination they watch as the robot follows the black tape road and makes its way around the small paper obstacles that block its path.
The robot is not run by a handheld controller. Instead, each of its movements has been pre-programmed by the children themselves.
Venture, a home-school ing co-op based out of Calvary Baptist Church in Tyler, hosted its first Lego Robotics Camp this week with assistance from the Van Zandt Robotics Club from Canton.
About 30 home-schooled students from around the area attended the camp, which ran Monday through Friday.
The camp allowed students ages 9 to 14 to build their own small, hand-held robot using the NXT Lego Education System. After constructing their robot, campers used a child-friendly programming system to instruct their robots to drive and perform certain tasks such as picking up, dropping and retrieving objects.
“It’s a miracle,” Robert Nychka, with the Van Zandt Robotics Club, said. “Some of these kids are pretty young and within a week they are able to get their robots to do pretty complicated tasks.”
Younger students, ages 6 to 8, used the WeDo Lego Robotics Education System to build models that featured working motors and sensors.
While programming their robots, students are able to learn about degrees, measurements, pulleys, levers and other concepts associated with science, math and engineering, Ms. Butcher said.
“When boys see that there is something in the world that interests them, which is building things, then maybe it will give them a focus on their education,” Ms. Butcher said. “So I’m hoping this will give our young men and women a sense that, if building things is their niche, there is a place in the world for them.”
In addition to the educational benefits the camp provides, Ms. Butcher said it gives students the opportunity to learn about teamwork, patience, creativity and problem-solving.
“We promote what’s called gracious competition,” Nychka said. “It’s not about beating someone. It’s about creating the best robot and helping others. Everyone is here to learn.”
Venture plans to host another camp, open to all of the community, at the end of July. Ms. Butcher hopes both camps will serve as launching pads for Tyler’s own robotics club, set to start in the fall.
For more information about upcoming camp and club events, email Ms. Butcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.