Robots attack - Students learn programming, engineering

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By Nathan L. McBroom

This past week a group of local students learned how to program a robot to pick up objects, respond to verbal commands, and obey everything that it is told to do.

Despite some of their parents' desires, the robots were not allowed to be used to do the students' household chores.

The two-day workshop, which was sponsored by district's Student Technology Leadership Program, was designed to challenge the students' critical thinking and analytical skills. During the program, students worked collaboratively to design, build, and program a robot to do a variety of tasks.

When the students arrived on Wednesday, they were placed in teams and given a robot kit. Out of the box, the robots didn't look like much more than scattered computer parts.

At the robot's base is a programmable computer. This base is mounted on motorized wheels which allows it to travel over any smooth surface. Accessories, such as mechanical arms and an assortment of sensors and attachments, allow the robot to do a variety of tasks.

The robots' central computer is then hooked up to a laptop and the students use the laptops to program the robot, telling it what it should do.

The students had to work quickly to design, construct, and program their robot. During the second day of the camp, the teams competed their robots against each other to see which one could perform the greatest number of tasks.

The kits, which are designed by Lego, are used in all levels of robotics classes, even classes taught a Princeton.

Adam Knecht, an 11th grader from the Shelby County High School STLP team, said the program gave students a good introduction into the world of robotics.

"Pretty much, if you can program it, this thing can do it," he said.

Sixth-grader Kyle Hillebrand said the workshop was great preparation for his future career as a video game designer.

"I really wish I had one of these at home," he said.