NANTICOKE — Edward Patrick of White Haven is no Lego rookie. He’s snapped plenty of the plastic bricks together at home.
“I have a whole shelf of Star Wars,” he boasted. Yet he conceded the Lego robot he was trying to assemble Monday was a different breed of toy. “This is hard.”
Patrick, 9, was one of a dozen children working in teams of three on the first day of a week-long Lego Robotics camp for students in grades four, five and six. It was the second of four such camps Luzerne County Community College is offering this summer.
The campers gather daily from 9 a.m. to noon to immerse themselves in the nuances of gearing, computer programming and the use of sensors that detect touch, light and sound. It’s all available through the Lego Mindstorms robotic kits, which stay true to the tenet of the Danish toy company that toys assemble, disassemble and reassemble, yet do so in unfamiliar ways.
As Patrick noted, “These are harder than the actual Legos,” referring to the more widely recognized colorful plastic bricks with protruding studs on top that lend themselves best to stacking upwards. The robotics kits are heavy on what Lego geeks call “Technics” pieces that can click together at various angles, coupled with a wide array of gears and motors allowing the addition of different motions.
Two college students hired by LCCC to teach the four weeks of camps gave the students instructions on the basics Monday, then let them build a simple robot on wheels. The complexity will progress, with construction of race cars today that know when to stop thanks to a sensor detecting the finish line, and more elaborate models culminating in battling robots Thursday, Stanley Chan said.
Chan is a Penn State chemical engineering student starting his sophomore year this fall. While he played with Legos quite a bit when he was younger, he conceded the robotics were new to him and required some quick study. He said the younger students tend to have problems from time to time — usually getting distracted by wheel and gear possibilities — “but they pick it up pretty quickly.”
It certainly seemed to be a snap — pun intended — for Ethan Thomas. He and two friends, all from Baltimore, Md. who came up to stay with Ethan’s grandmother while attending the morning camp, had their basic robot built so quickly Chan started asking them to help other teams.
But they conceded their expertise is the conventional Legos, with Ethan having a special affinity for the Start Wars kits, so much so he had brought a phalanx of Star Wars “minifigures,” the iconic little Lego men, and lined them up with small, spring-loaded pieces that launch little rubber darts
A defensive line protecting their new robot, perhaps?