Lake Zurich area students program robots during winter break
Lake Zurich nine-year-old Victoria Strong and her partner Teagan Jones, 10, also of Lake Zurich, react to their successful robot programming Jan. 2 at the Ela Area Public Library. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 6:24AM
LAKE ZURICH — A bunch of District 95 fourth- and fifth-graders kept busy over winter break by programming LEGO robots at the Ela Area Public Library.
Barb Kalchbrenner, the library’s children’s programmer, explained that the young participants downloaded computer software to the small robots, which sat atop their desks. The LEGO Mindstorm robots enable students to program the robots themselves.
“They seem to be very comfortable with it and it’s fun,” said Kalchbrenner, who taught the class. “They pick it up pretty quick. It’s more logic than programming skills.”
District 95 fifth-grader Daniel Polites said he enjoyed one of the recent classes.
“They taught us how to program the robots,” he said. “We learned how to make it move and show images and sound.”
Kalchbrenner uses the first part of the two-hour class for instruction. Then she lets the students experiment with their new programming skills. Kalchbrenner said the robots can be programmed to move certain distances. In more advanced classes, she added, students are able to build sensors into the robot so when it approaches a wall, it stops short.
“But we haven’t gotten that far yet,” she said.
The library purchased six of the robots in June, and used winter break for its first run of classes. Kalchbrenner said she likes to keep the classes small, capping the groups at 12 students.
“It needs to be small because this is the first run of it,” Kalchbrenner explained.
While the programming material is very basic for now, she plans to take it to a more advanced level of classes during the summer.
Kalchbrenner noted that some surrounding school districts also are integrating robots into curriculum. Ela Library staff also had seen the robots featured at conferences.
Explaining why the library brought the initiative to the Lake Zurich area, Kalchbrenner said the programming classes are designed to attract grade school children who may not be interested in the library’s story time programs.
“We want to appeal to a certain segment of our population that may not respond to some of our programming,” she said.
Kalchbrenner said she enjoyed the two classes she taught during the winter break and looks forward to taking the class to the next level.
“We had a good time,” she concluded. “There’s a whole lot you can do with these.”