TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – A Lego robot moved to block a goal, sending the ball off the table. A student picked it up and placed it near his team’s robot for another shot. His opponent’s robot once more blocked the ball.

Nobody became angry that goals were missed; the activity was all about having fun.

This was table soccer at the University of Idaho Extension Office on Wednesday morning in Twin Falls. It was the third day of the robotics camp for students. In a room downstairs of the County West building, another team of students prepared their bots to play another form of soccer using plastic donuts.

The students had already participated in several different activities earlier this week, said Extension Educator Suzann Dolecheck, and a few more were planned for Thursday and Friday, including a STEM event focused on literacy.

Braden Mealer, 8, said he enjoyed participating in the table soccer tournament in which his team’s robot played the goalkeeper. His favorite activity, however, was making a robotic alligator.

The camp seemed to offer something that attracted each student differently. Eight-year-old Jose Carpenter said she enjoyed the soccer game, while Connor Howard said he liked building an airplane.

Students worked in teams instead of alone. The soccer-playing bots were hooked up to laptops into which the students programmed their movements.

The STEM program – science, technology, engineering and math – aims to help youth become more engaged with tools that will help them be more rounded in an ever-advancing technological world. But the robotics camps also increase students’ knowledge in language, literacy and social studies.

“It shows them a little more of how STEM is applicable,” said Alyssa Keyes. "The cars we drive are robots, drones are robots."

Later in life, as students become of age to choose a career, they might want to consider something in the scientific or technological field. The camps give them a taste of STEM-related activities and gets them thinking toward a career in technology.

If nothing else, it allows them to have fun with their peers.

Photo by Andrew Weeks
Photo by Andrew Weeks

This is Keyes’s second year working as an intern for the university. She said technology has come a long way in just the past few years, as she doesn’t remember doing much of what these students were doing on Wednesday.

Classes this week include the WeDo Robotics camp for students in grades K-3, an EV3 and advanced EV3 camp for students in grades 3-6, and a “Take to the Skies” event for youth in grades 4-9. Dolecheck said another robotics event will be held in July.

Dayton Legg, 11, said he enjoys robotics week because it’s chance to socialize and work closely with his peers. You don’t usually work alone, he said, but instead you are part of a team. He also likes robotics events because they are much broader based than the science camps he’s attended.

“You get to use more than just science,” he said.

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