A boy’s best friend is his robot, but on Wednesday afternoon, 11-year-old Matt McClintic seemed willing to settle.
Having spent the past few days constructing and programming small-scale Lego robots that could execute any number of basic movements, Matt and the other junior engineers at the Bricks4Kidz EV3 Robotics camp were taking a break from mechanical maneuvers in favor of something with more of a beat to it.
After constructing what looked like the Lego answer to the guitar, the campers programmed and attached ultrasonic sensors at the base of each structure.
The neck of each “guitar” stretched up to four inches, with a small track for a Lego piece that could be pushed toward and away from the sensor, replacing the need for chords.
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Students selected eight music notes to correspond with every half-inch the Lego traveled on the track, programming the sensor to recognize the distance and play the corresponding sound.
Matt was considering adding wheels to his electronic instrument.
“I’m not really sure what I’ll make it do. I’ll think of something,” he said.
Creativity is the name of the game at Bricks4Kidz in State College, which hosts a series of camps and building and craft activities for kids throughout the year.
“I just want to contribute wholesome, educational fun to the community,” managing director Lynn Pelchar said.
The EV3 robotics camp helps children learn basic teamwork and troubleshooting skills — and they’re catching on quickly.
This week, the group has already experimented with a variety sensors responding to different stimuli, such as touch and color. On Monday, the group created a small Lego robot that they programmed to move in varying directions based on the different hues it detected.
Connor Kelly, an 11-year-old from State College, is spending his second year at the camp.
“It’s really fun since I like Legos and robotics,” Connor said.
His favorite activity so far has been the Battlebot Arena, a duel between two spinning robotic tops with arms that the campers could program to amplify their offensive or defensive performance.
The Battlebot Arena was just the beginning. During the week of Aug. 10, Bricks4Kidz will host Remote Control Bricks City, a camp that will merge elements of architecture and technology even further.
Campers will construct small-scale replicas of landmarks such as the Empire State Building and surround them with original designs for bridges and other structures to compose their cityscape. Remote-control vehicles will complete the illusion.
Even on a grand scale, the root of each project always begins with the kids.
“It’s just up to their imaginations,” Pelchar said.