Lego robots build love of engineering, technology at middle school
Camden — A club at Camden-Rockport Middle School is fostering an interest in engineering, technology and problem solving.
For about six years, the Robotics Club has been meeting weekly after school to build and program robots.
About 20 students — all boys — participate in the club. For the last three years, Erma Colvin has been the adviser of the group.
This year, for the first time, a few of the club's members formed a team and competed in the 2012 First Lego League. The statewide competition was held in Augusta in early December and the Camden group, although rookies, placed near the top in the competition.
The Storm Troopers, as the team has been named, placed fourth out of 64 teams.
"The next rookie team was about 30 teams away from us," said team member John Chilton.
The Storm Troopers, which stands for Science, Technology and Organization of Robotics and Mathematics, was honored during a school assembly Dec. 21. In addition to Chilton, team members include Adam Bifulco, Ivan Gushee, Michael Belley, Bryce Carlson and Rory Carlson.
During club meetings each week, students build robots, which are kits from the Lego company and run on rechargeable batteries.
Using the computer, students are given various tasks to try to complete.
"Sometimes it's something they figure out quickly and sometimes it takes awhile," Colvin said.
Using a computer program, the robot is programmed and students decide every movement, down to how many rotations a wheel should make.
The information is then downloaded to the robot and the students see if their calculations were successful by testing the robot on a platform set up in the hall.
On Dec. 19, fifth-graders Evan Philbrook and Anthony Benson were hoping that by using bigger wheels on the robot, it would use less energy and the batteries would last longer.
"We are now going on a run to test how much energy we need for the new wheels," Benson said as he headed to the hall with the robot.
Benson said if the robot went fast, it was using too much energy and if it went slow, it was not using enough. The test revealed that it was too slow and the two boys headed back to the computer for updates.
"Robotics are an important part of the future in education," Colvin said in an email.
Colvin said a few years ago with the Maine Learning Results and No Child Left Behind Act, schools were working to increase performance in language arts and mathematics.
The new buzz word, she said, is STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics. Robotics provide education in all of those areas and a lot of it is learning to problem solve.
Chilton said by participating in the team, he learned a lot more about programming.
The team plans to compete again next year and Colvin said the club is a perfect feeder program for the team.
Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.