Students try their hand at building robots during a Lego Robo-Camp


Addison Ritner meticulously inserted Lego bricks into the base of what would become a robot. Sometimes the bricks fit, other times it required her to disassemble a few pieces before she made progress.

Addison, 11, is one of the students enrolled in the weeklong Lego Robo-Camp held at the Buena Vista Branch Library in collaboration with the FRC Team 980 ThunderBots, a community team of high school students from Burbank, Glendale and nearby schools who compete across the Los Angeles region by building robots that perform commands.

Participants were divided into eight groups and learned how to assemble and program robots using Lego Mindstorms.

On Friday, they are slated to test their robots by placing them on a printed game mat with a series of challenges. The group’s robot that successfully completes the obstacles and accrues the most points will win prizes.

On Monday, students brainstormed ideas and were introduced to the Lego Mindstorms program that uses visual blocks, which represent a series of coding. A series of visual blocks will prompt a robot to move forward, stop, turn and lift items. One block can do a variety of commands.

One of the attendees picks from a pile of parts as he assembles his team's robot during the Lego Robo-Camp held at the Buena Vista Branch Library in Burbank on Monday.
(Dan Watson / Burbank Leader)

The children will become more confident in their skills throughout the week, said Ethan Geodfrey, 16, summer team captain of the FRC Team 980. He added that some kids become “glued to the computer” with enough confidence to “handle everything for the team.”

Robin Dorfman, a mentor for the ThunderBots, said the goal is to instill an interest in robotics at a young age, so students and parents can encourage schools to implement technical programs into their curricula.

“It’s better to set up a foundation in students early on and lead them in studies toward [science, technology, engineering and math] careers, [where] they will be better prepared for the new future,” she said.

It was Addison’s first time working with Lego Mindstorms. Though she was frustrated at times, Addison said the program pushed her to continue trying. She eventually took the lead in helping assemble the robot for her group.

Another participant, Andrew Molina, 10, quickly learned his way through the programming component. While his group worked on assembling its robot, Andrew began tinkering with the visual blocks. He said it was “pretty easy” once he got the hang of it.

“I’m happy to be here,” he said. “All my life, I just wanted to make robots, and I just think they’re really cool.”

Twitter: @vegapriscella