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Kids are learning robotics through LEGO

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Posted at 7:32 AM, Jun 17, 2015
and last updated 2017-01-04 08:24:40-05

Kids are learning with LEGO in a summer camp centered around robotics.

LEGO robotics is one of six camps offered through Classroom Antics, a Cleveland-based company geared toward inspiring a passion for computer science in kids.

“Ever since I was young, I’ve loved LEGOs, and I’m intrigued by programming, so it combined two things I like,” said 10-year-old Union Township resident Jack Renner.

Classes started June 8 and are available for nine weeks. Camp is set up in a different venue and part of the city each week.

Classes are  at churches, universities, community and recreation centers primarily in the northern and eastern parts of Cincinnati. This year, camp started in Anderson Township and will be in Mason, Fairfield, Blue Ash, Loveland, West Chester and Madeira throughout the summer. 

A LESSON IN ROBOTICS

Over the course of the week, campers learn to build and program their own robots. The week starts with an introduction to robotics as a profession, which helps students to understand the importance of the field and how it affects their lives.

As the week progresses, instructors teach students about motors, then sensors.

Once the kids understand the tools they are working with, they learn about variables and deeper levels of complexity. They then are presented with different challenges to program their robots to complete specific tasks, such as recognizing and saying a color and picking up an object, taking it elsewhere and dropping it off.

AN EXPANDING CAMP

Classroom Antics was established in 2007, and the first class was in Cleveland in 2008. Programming Manager and co-founder Toby Foote, who started the company with his wife, Tara, said his desire to create the camp was influenced by his parents.

“My mother was a teacher, and my dad was a technologist. I’ve always been interested in both of them,” Foote said.

When he was laid off from his position in the data center of a regional bank during the nation’s recent recession, he took the opportunity to start Classroom Antics. The company added a Columbus camp in 2011 and a Cincinnati camp in 2013.

RELATED: Top 10 ways Legos are educating children

Classroom Antics camps are taught almost exclusively by instructors who are teachers by profession. They were originally taught by a mix of teachers and technologists.

“We found that teachers teaching technology is a much more successful way to approach educational camps,” Foote said.

STARTING THEM YOUNG

The camps started as three classes — LEGO robotics, video game design and stop-motion animation — for children age 9 to 13.

But when they noticed parents wanting to get younger kids involved, Foote added junior camps, geared to children age 7 to 9, for LEGO robotics and video game design. The junior camps corporate software that is easier to use and does not allow users to do as much as the software for the older campers.

A computer programming camp also was added three years ago for kids ages 9 to 13. And the company in March began offering contract services to embed technology classes into other camps and offer programs in schools.

While kids learn about topics specific to the different camps, they gain transferable skills as well.

“They’re kind of learning the universal language that is programming,” said Cincinnati Classroom Antics Camp Manager Dan Steffen.

The camps also introduce the students to computer software. Some that are used include Kodu Game Lab and iKITMovie software for junior video game design and stop-motion animation camps, respectively, and the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 platform for LEGO robotics.

“I hope kids leave camp with a passion for computer science … as a profession,” Foote said.

But even if kids do not go on to become technologists, the classes give them an appreciation for computer science, Steffen said. “It helps them understand and respect the (computer programming) industry."

Although they have nothing to announce yet, more changes are in the pipeline, he said.