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Kids learn technology basics at robot camp
Nearly 20 youngsters build functioning robots out of the LEGO models
Ray Montgomery, left, and Matthew Jue operate a robotic crane Friday that they built during robotics camp at Lakeview Academy. - photo by Tom Reed

Lakeview Academy sought to groom the next generation of mechanical wizards at a robotics camp this week for rising third- through sixth-graders.

The weeklong camp gave students a hands-on overview of robotics and allowed them to experiment with basic robotic technology. The camp used LEGO toys and a companion computer program to teach students about the many uses and principles of robotics.

"Kids love LEGO. So if they can build something with LEGO, which they love anyway, and then program it and suddenly it will move, it just becomes very exciting for them." said Lynn Zottnick, camp instructor and technology teacher at Lakeview Academy.

Nearly 20 children were busily creating an array of machinery, such as cranes, fans and airplanes. The students paired up and built functioning robots out of the LEGO models and then, using the computer, programmed the machines to perform various tasks such as spinning and lifting.

Hannah Perkins and Paige Farley, both 7, giggled as they provided sound effects for their robotic ship, complete with a small, yellow LEGO man as captain. Their ship simulated the motions of a ship at sea while the girls eagerly clicked the storm sound effect on the computer.

"I love building with LEGO. It's really, really fun," Hannah said.

William Bagwell, 10, was working on the computer, programming the motor for a small fan he and his teammate were creating. The fan's motor is similar to that of his favorite LEGO model, an airplane they made earlier in the week. He says he has learned a lot about machines at camp.

"Motors can do a lot of different things. They can build robots, and cars, planes, trains, fans, a bunch of stuff," William said.

Lakeview Academy has had some recent success through its robotics team last school year.

Their team of fourth- through seventh-graders went all the way to the state championships at Georgia Institute of Technology,finishing in the top 50 out of 400 teams.

The robotics team was challenged with creating robots for the biomedical field.

They had to come up with a functioning design for a real-life problem. To research this, they interviewed area doctors and members of the medical community.

Ed Myers, parent coach for the robotics team, says he is amazed at how quickly the students pick up on the concepts, and all they really need is a little guidance and direction.

"It wasn't just about building a robot and being technical, they had to do research, they had to interact and give presentations," Myers said.

"With the technology and the computer, these kids learn differently these days, so it's nice to start to integrate that technology into how they learn."

The robotics summer camp and robotics team has been such a success the school plans to integrate the program into the next school year's curriculum.

"It really emulates what engineers do in the real world, where they look at problems, solutions and presentations," Zottnick said.

Summer camp at Lakeview offers several other learning opportunities. Students could choose to make a Claymation animated movie, put on a play, learn about sports or just learn how to be a better student.

"It's great at this camp," Paige said.