If you had walked into the lunchroom at Ruthven-Ayrshire School last Thursday, you would have encountered students of varying ages, gathered around the lunch tables, heads down and busy at work bringing robots to life.
While Thursday, Jan. 22, was an in-service day for teachers at Ruthven-Ayrshire and an official “no school day” for the students, approximately 21 fourth through ninth graders spent part of the day involved in the 4-H Robotics Workshop. The workshop was organized and conducted by Earl McAlexander, 4-H Youth Development Field Specialist from the Calhoun County Extension Office, and Julie Naig, Palo Alto County Youth Coordinator.
“Extension is concerned about the number of kids fluent in science and technology. We’re pushing to get more students interested in these subjects,” explained McAlexander. “In the future, we’d like to start clubs up and would eventually like to organize the first Lego League in the area.”
The basic robot can move forward and backward as well as turn 360 degrees. Sensors can be added that enable the robot to react to sound, light, and distance. Participants do not need to know how to build with Legos or how to do computer programming.
The robotics program gives youth an opportunity to learn life skills in science and engineering and develop positive attitudes about science and technology. Through building a basic robot and writing simple programs for that robot, youngsters learn how to work successfully together and with students of different ages.
According to Naig, prior to the workshop in Ruthven, the robotics program was first offered to students in the West Bend-Mallard School District.
“We looked for days when the kids aren’t in school,” said Naig. “We’re also hoping to find some local adult contacts for these kids.”
In Emmetsburg, a robotics workshop will be held at the Palo Alto County Extension Office on Monday, Feb. 16. Two sessions–one in the morning and another in the afternoon–are planned. Grades fourth through sixth will meet from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon, and grades sixth through eighth will meet from 1:30 to 4 p.m.
The workshops are free of charge to participants and are made possible through a grant from Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation. The grant allowed the Palo Alto County Extension Office to purchase 12 Lego Mindstorm Robot kits and related computer software.
For information about the robotics workshop, contact Julie Naig at the Extension Office at 852-2865.