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Photo: Shae West
A group of campers the the Wichita State University's LEGO Robotics engineering camp explain how they program their robot's motors.

Campers build LEGO robots in engineering camp

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Many Americans have built houses, cars or skyscrapers up to the ceiling with LEGOs, the coolest construction kit of our youth. But Wichita State University’s LEGO Robotics engineering camp allows kids to build all sorts of mechanical wonders out of their favorite building blocks.

Larry Whitman, associate professor and director of engineering education, directed a camp July 21-25 highlighting the many robotic creations that can be made out of LEGOs.

The purpose of this year’s camp was to stimulate interest in engineering in children grades 6-8. The camp also promoted math and science and encouraged students not to be frightened by the subjects.

“This is the age when children become intimidated by math and science,” Whitman said.

The goal is to keep them comfortable with their mathematic and scientific abilities and interested in engineering as a future career option.

Activities included building and programming LEGO robots, navigating robots successfully along a variety of courses and challenging each other in competitions. Also, the children learned from an engineering intern from Spirit Aero Systems and took a tour of the robots at Case New Holland, an agricultural and construction equipment manufacturer.
Campers designed and programmed their robots to use sensors. The sensors allowed robots to follow a line, turn around when hitting a wall and move around a column without using a remote.

“This is something that will help (children) get interested in technology,” said camp counselor and engineering major Ana Lazarin. “It exposes them to things that are fun. Plus, they get to make friends here.”

According to Whitman, the camp activities will allow children to learn that they can design, build and program a robot to respond to its environment.

One-third of the campers were on scholarship, which brought down their fee from $250. The camp was not able to get sponsorship causing fees to be high and attendance to be low. Twenty-five total campers attended.

Whitman does not expect the same crowd for camp next year; however, he is considering offering an advanced class for returning campers.

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Created on Thursday, July 31, 2008; Last modified on Wednesday, November 19, 2008