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Building robots

By Staff | Aug 12, 2011

Andrew VanVoorst, foreground, and Jake Giannantonia are working to program their robot to make specific turns. The NXT software in the laptop was developed by LEGO Education.

SHELDON – LEGO League is a robotics program for 9- to 14-year-olds which is designed to get young people excited about science and technology and teach them valuable employment and life skills.

Iowa State University Extension has been using the 4-H program to facilitate LEGO League as a new 4-H interest in many counties across the state.

In Northwest Iowa the program has exploded from just three clubs in 2009-10 to an estimated 25 clubs that will be starting in the coming year.

Wade Weber, Extension 4-H youth program specialist for Region 1, directed a LEGO League “Gear-Tec” camp last week at Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon.

Assisting Weber were Anna Letsche, program coordinator for Sioux and Lyon counties, and Kylee Rhode, the new science, engineering and technologies coordinator for Extension in the counties of Sioux, Lyon, O’Brien and Osceola.

Gear-tec 4-H’ers get ready to send robots they have programmed through an obstacle course. From left are Aaron Howe, Dalton Wagenaar and Micheal Howe.

“It is really exciting how much the kids love this and look forward to coming each day,” Rhode said. “We have had a great week.”

Using LEGO League Education’s Robotics kit, 15 youths started with building free-wheeling, non- motorized cars on day one, to creating robot designs which technologically evolved as the week progressed

Starting with model cars they built with LEGO bricks the 4-H’ers learned about aerodynamics and how to make their cars run faster on an incline.

From there they moved to using computers to program robots to complete specific tasks such as backward and forward motions, rotations and degrees of power.

They could also program them with sensors to collect data through sound, touch and light.

On the last day of the program, the youths learned about using global position systems in robotics and how it is used in precision farming.

“We are excited about this program because it gets kids excited about science and technology,”?Weber said.”Parents have reported to us that their child enjoyed the day’s activities so much it was all they could talk about when they returned home.

“The core values of the program are what set it apart.”

Those values are:

  • We are a team.
  • We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.
  • We know our coaches and mentors don’t have all the answers; we learn together.
  • We honor the spirit of friendly competition.
  • What we discover is more important than what we win.
  • We share our experiences with others.
  • We display gracious professionalism and cooperation in everything we do.
  • We have fun.

To get involved in a LEGO League program contact a local ISU Extension office for more information.

Contact Robyn Kruger at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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