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Elementary robotics

By Staff | Jun 13, 2017

One boy controlled a lighted ball with an iPad, while his friend chased it around the gym at the Regional Wellness Center. And with the built-in motion censor, the ball chased him back, to the delight of them both. Other campers built racecars and robots of other shapes and sizes.

Welcome to Bricks & Bots Tech Camp, where a group of primary grade students learned sophisticated engineering practices: asking questions and solving problems, modeling, prototyping, investigating, analyzing and interpreting data, computational thinking, creating evidence based arguments, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.

But mostly, as they leaped and ran around in their neon yellow tee shirts, it was fun.

Demoney Elementary principal Shane Kalous had the idea of offering a camp to elementary kids for the summer. Kalous and Estherville Lincoln Central tech director Jenny Nitchals talked just after the holiday break about the Lego Education WeDo 2.0 kits. Nitchals was put in touch with Lego and a camp director from Kansas who had experience running camps with the kits.

“We started talking to Bob [Grems] at the Regional Wellness Center to figure out how we could partner.

Students eagerly showed parents, grandparents and siblings various concepts they had learned at Friday’s presentation.

Helpers included Bob Grems, Shane Kalous, Jackie Thoreson, Arielle Olson, Taylor Myers, Jaydan Nitchals, Gabrielle Paul and Taylor Bates, in addition to Nitchals.

Sixty-five percent of today’s students will have job titles that do not exist today, according to Lego. Imagine someone saying in the eighties that we would have social media managers, or in the sixties software engineers.

“We wanted the kids to work collaboratively and also to keep them moving,” Nitchals said. Each day included 30 minutes of activity: soccer, dodgeball (twice) swimming and the large climbing blocks at the RWC.

Students collaborated in pairs with a gearbox containing 280 LEGO system building elements, a smarthub (a Lego brick with an electronic element that works by Bluetooth, Wifi, and battery power) and a light surface that can show up to 10 different colors.

Nitchals said, “Upon arrival at camp, kids were able to use our OSMO Coding & Coding Jam kits. They also were exposed to Ollies and Spheros. The kids were amazing. They taught us helpers so much throughout the week!”

The day also included two hours of creating, collaborating, communicating and thinking, and 15 minutes for a brain food snack.

Nitchals said the campers were able to troubleshoot problems and use their imaginations to create amazing things.

Motors, motion censors, tilt censors these were all part of the students’ gear boxes, which they unpacked throughout the week of fun and learning.

“Kids built Milo the Space Rover, Bee with a plant, helicopter that rescued a panda bear, race car and they also had time to free build,” Nitchals said.

The first session had an enrollment of 23 kids for a maximum of 26 spots.

A second session for third and fourth graders begins June 26. “We only have a few spots left,” Nitchals said.