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Robots drive students’ interest

Step aside, R2-D2. A new slew of robots are being created by children in the Post Falls and Rathdrum areas.

Altogether, there are 10 teams of robots here, and they’re operating within the Post Falls and Lakeland schools.

“The kids are absolutely jazzed about it,” Karlicia Berry, a teacher at Post Falls’ Ponderosa Elementary School and coordinator for North Idaho’s teams, wrote in an e-mail.

The initiative is primarily sponsored by FIRST Lego League, a nonprofit organization based in the Eastern United States. Its goal is to rev up youngsters’ interests in science and technology.

This is Idaho’s first foray into the competition, and already the state boasts 66 teams.

Here’s how it works:

Each team creates and programs its own robot from supplies in the LEGO Mindsprings line. Robots must be able to maneuver and perform a set of prescribed tasks in 2 1/2 minutes atop a 4-foot-by-8-foot playing field.

Judges will score the robots’ performances and then question team members about the technical and computer programming aspects of their creations.

Berry said Post Falls has eight teams: three at Ponderosa Elementary School, two at Post Falls Middle School, one at River City Middle School, one at Mullan Trail Elementary and one at Prairie View Elementary. Lakeland Schools has two teams, housed in its respective middle schools.

“Of course it is beneficial, in that it gets young people exposed to robotics and technology. It opens whole new vistas for them and can truly change the course of their futures and possibly the course of the future itself,” Berry added.

She’s facilitating a team of third- and fourth-graders who call themselves The Panic Stricken Brainy Chickens.

Both boys and girls get involved in the program.

Girls “love the programming aspect. It gives them a real sense of the power of creativity and critical thinking problem solving,” Berry said.

Some of her team’s members are “screaming and hugging each other in absolute high glee because the robot that they built and programmed is now actually accomplishing the mission that they designed and programmed the robot for. Right now, it sounds like a touchdown at the Super Bowl in here!” she wrote.

Area teams will put their robots to the test at the North Idaho Regional Competition Dec. 1 at Post Falls’ River City Middle School.

Top finishers will advance to the state finals, to be held in Boise in January, Berry said.

LFC Enterprises, a Post Falls company, is helping support the project.


 

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