Lego robotics club ready to compete

Staff ~ The Amherst News
Published on January 25, 2011

AMHERST - Many adults who grew up in the modern world had the privilege of owning a mountainous collection of LEGO building blocks as kids.

LEGO added a constructive nature to many childhoods, and now an Amherst junior high school club is bringing it all back – while also throwing robotics into the mix.

The LEGO Robotics Club at E.B. Chandler Junior High School is a team of teenage students who aspire to be engineers and programmers in the future, while still taking the opportunity to enjoy working with LEGO.

The club meets after school on Thursdays, and builds all sorts of gizmos and gadgets, in which they apply math  and engineering skills by programming electronic motors into the Lego devices, to function and complete simple tasks in a relay-like manner.

Kathlene Jennings is a Grade 7/8 Science teacher, and the team coach. She said while all of the robotics equipment is being used on loan from the Nova Scotia Community College, the team is working on fundraising to eventually purchase its own equipment.

“For the first couple of months, it was a bit problematic trying to deal with screens that weren’t working, and get all the bits and parts working properly so we could actually do something with it,” said Jennings.

“But right now, we have just sent out a letter campaign to the community in hopes that we can get some donations from the community in order to have that for the kids.”

The club is set to compete against other teams in various robotics tournaments in the future. The team placed second in a qualifying tournament in Truro late in 2010.

Nick Rushton, 13, is a member of the team. He said teamwork is crucial when it comes down to brainstorming and constructing a successful device.

“I like it because we all work together and we all have a lot of fun. I like the mechanics of it too, just because I do want to be an architect and work in design,” said Rushton.

Holly McArthur, 14 does the programming for the devices, which means she is the one to calculate the directions for where the robot will go, into the motor.

“It’s really fun to think of different missions to do,” said McArthur.

“To realize that you can make pieces of metal and plastic move is exciting.”

While the robotics club still has some fundraising to do, they are preparing to compete in an upcoming provincial tournament. If they qualify, they will move on to the nationals.

McArthur said wherever they place in the future, she will be happy to be just a part of the team.

“If we go to the nationals, that will be great. If we don’t, then I’ll still be happy. It’s just a lot of fun either way.”

Lucas Bickerson, 13, inspects a Lego device, which is powered by a “smart pad”, which powers the contraption. Chris Dowbiggin - Amherst Daily News