Local kids use Legos to build learning

In a classroom at Jefferson State Community College, it seemed as if Lindsay Dick, 11, and her little sister, Aimee, 9, were simply playing with Legos. In reality, the two were doing much more than that.

They were combining a childhood toy with a grown-up area of study — robotics — to create cheering fans for a soccer match played entirely with plastic.

From June 21-24, Jeff State hosted a Lego camp, which gave 16 children ages 7-14 the chance to build moving, shaking robots, such as a drumming monkey and a hungry alligator that opens and closes his mouth with the help of a sensor. The kids also learned a little bit about math and science, but don’t tell them that.

“(The camp) is more fun than I expected it to be,” Lindsay Dick said. “I thought we were going to be doing math and schoolwork, but then I went home (after the first day), and I was like, ‘I want to go back!’”

Aimee Dick said she enjoyed using computers to help build her robots.

“It was really, really fun,” she said. “We get to build lots of fun stuff.”

Camp leader Alexis Antoine said she thinks kids enjoy Lego camp because they get to play all day while also spending time with other kids.

“It’s fun. My kids are about this age, and I’ve been playing with Legos since I was their age,” Antoine said. “They’re learning math skills, they’re learning social skills. They have little competitions in here, so it’s almost like a sport.”

Nic Parmer, 10, and Viraj Kacker, 8, certainly acted as if the robotic soccer match going on was just as exciting as the real-life World Cup.

When the two scored, using their Lego kicking machine to send a red construction-paper ball past the Lego goalie, their cheers of joy rivaled the World Cup vuvuzelas in volume.

“When I learned about the Lego camp, I was really excited because I really like robotics, and I really like Legos, and it was a combination,” Kacker said.

Antoine chuckled at the kids’ excitement.

“They’re having a great time. They’re actually having a little too much fun,” she said.