Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

June 20, 2014

LEGO program lets teens use brain power

TAHLEQUAH — Some local teenagers have found boredom banished by participating in the Tahlequah Public Library Summer Program.

This summer, the library offers teens the opportunity to use their brain power and imagination to construct LEGO robots.

With boys at one table and girls at another, a little friendly competition engaged teens Wednesday. Each group had a book of instructions, a box of parts and willing teammates.

A mom sat on the side of the room, observing all the interaction between the teens. Tammy Glasby values the summer reading program for her children, and was impressed they were learning something.

“It’s science and it’s educational, and they have fun learning. I think it’s pretty neat,” said Glasby. “It’s something for the kids to do, part of the summer reading program.”

A fan of librarian Michelle Newton, Glasby said she’s been bringing her kids to the library since they were young.

“I love Michelle; she seems happy when she’s working with the kids,” said Glasby.

This builds teamwork, said Youth Services Coordinator Michelle Newton. As part of the Summer Teen Reading Program, they received a grant from the Science Technology Engineering and Math grant from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries for four robots and purchased a fifth.

“LEGOs provides some examples; that’s what we’re using today, and the kids can go build whatever they want re-using the same pieces,” Newton said. “They work together. There’s a parts puller and assembler, they take turns.”

Once built, each robot has sensors that connect to a servo, which connects to a computer. Once it’s on the computer, the kids can program it to run a sequence, said Newton.

“They download it to their ‘bot and it runs the program,” she said. “It’s pretty cool. They start out with pieces and build this in a couple of hours.”

Every robot the kids build, she builds beforehand, so she’ll know what problems they might encounter and how to fix them.

“The best part is watching them enjoy their creation, and the kids are cooperating so well, learning in a fun way,” said Newton.

At the girls’ table, chatter and laughter accompanied the robot-building, as they talked about their summer activities, school and friends.

They also discussed the technology of the robot building as they assembled pieces and how it would work when they finished.

The girls were keeping up with the boys’ progress and trying to hurry and beat the boys in assembling their robot.

“I like having something to do and people to talk to,” said MIkaela Murphy. “It’s really cool and really interesting to build robots. It’s interesting to figure out how to put it together, and Michelle helps you when you need help; she’s really nice.”

After joining the group already in progress, Katie Murek was talking with the girls.

“I thought it was a reading program, I like to read,” said Murek. “It’s fun putting the smaller pieces together for the robot.”

Katie Retherford loves LEGO bricks.

“I think finding out how the robot works, so I thought this would be good,” said Retherford. “We’re all working together to build a robot that can move on two legs instead of four.”

Dana Pigeon attends library programs whenever possible.

“I like to be able to get to know people and read,” said Dana. “I’m in the Summer Reading Program. I like that you get to build something and see it come to life and working together as a team.”

It was a little quieter at the boys table, with the occasional comment about LEGO bricks, the instructions or putting other parts together.

The teens weren’t familiar with one another before the program, but the girls said they appreciated making new friendships, while the boys were just getting acquainted.

“I have an interest in robotics,” said Matthew Boyd, who is home-schooled. “I’m enjoying learning all this,”

Connor Creel leaned over the table, searching for parts to assemble.

He enjoys everything about the program, and hopes to return to next week.

“I like helping find the pieces,” Connor said.

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