Cre­ative ro­bot­ics rules at City Li­brary

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

‘‘You know, it’d be eas­ier if we just stopped think­ing about it.’’

The ad­vice from 14-year-old Sam Seer­den is to his three team-mates as they puz­zle over how to build a kit­set Lego ro­bot.

Sam is one of 20 in­ter­me­di­ate, and year-9 kids par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Lego NXT Ro­bot de­sign and build se­ries that got un­der­way last week at City Li­brary.

Di­vided into five teams, the 12 boys and eight girls had been set a task of con­struct­ing from a pho­to­graph, the Lego Mind­storm ro­bot. The 50 or so com­po­nents in­clude such good­ies as an ul­tra­sonic sen­sor, sound, touch and light sen­sors, three servo mo­tors, a recharge­able bat­tery and some­thing called an in­tel­li­gent brick, which is the com­put­erised con­troller.

Li­brary su­per­vi­sor Ruthie Bowler says when the kits ar­rived, she couldn’t find the in­struc­tions but man­aged to make up a work­ing ro­bot based solely on the pho­to­graph. She says the same plan-free chal­lenge was of­fered to the young­sters, with the op­tion of in­struc­tions if things proved too dif­fi­cult.

Once the ro­bots are con­structed and mov­ing, they will be given a se­ries of in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult ob­jec­tives to meet us­ing drag’n drop pro­gram­ming.

City Li­brary’s Sean Mon­aghan says the three Thurs­day morn­ing two-hour ses­sions aimed at ages 10-15, are a first, and were over­sub­scribed.

‘‘It’s great to see them all so en­gaged and co-op­er­at­ing. Most of th­ese kids have never met be­fore, and it’s kinda cool that some of the groups aren’t us­ing the in­struc­tions.’’

He says the li­brary would like to make this kind of work­shop a reg­u­lar thing.

‘‘We want to re­fine it, or­gan­ise it and run it with some tweaks,’’ Sean says

Self-con­fessed ‘‘Lego lover’’ Char­lie Mol­lard, 12, from St Peter’s Col­lege felt he had to be part of the ses­sions.

‘‘I love [Lego] so much, I thought I’d come and learn some more about it here.’’

Team-mate Ari Lewis-Clarke from Cen­tral Nor­mal School says he de­cided he liked en­gi­neer­ing af­ter watch­ing the movie Iron Man.

Peter Also, 12, was look­ing for­ward to build­ing fight­ing ro­bots to ‘‘crush other peo­ple’s ro­bots’’.

Not sim­ply con­tent with mak­ing a func­tion­ing ’bot, team mem­bers also spent time dec­o­rat­ing their cre­ations. The li­brary’s Remy Irvine says the whole ex­er­cise, from cre­ation to em­bel­lish­ment, re­in­forces why con­tem­po­rary tech is such a cre­ative process.

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WIL­SON/ FAIRFAX NZ

Ari Lewis-Clarke, 10 adds a dec­o­ra­tive touch to the ro­bot he and his team have con­structed at City Li­brary last week.

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