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Fourth-graders bring LEGOs to life at The Lane School

Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013 6:00 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Bill Ackerman – backerman@shawmedia.com)
Fourth-graders Sam Balice (left), 10, and Kian Bandukwala, 9, of Hinsdale, reprogram their robot using a laptop.The Lane School's LEGO Robotics Club sponsors a LEGO building and robotics afternoon for students at the school on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

HINSDALE — When the LEGO company first started in the 1930s, its toys weren't made with the popular connector blocks that are used today.

One of the first toys LEGO actually made was a solid wooden duck, and since then, the company has evolved into creating products that local fourth-graders at The Lane School are now bringing to life.

Eight years ago, Media Resource Center Director Stephanie Stieglitz started the LEGO Robotics Club at The Lane School, where students didn't just play with and assemble LEGOs — they learned about programming and technology.

"I love LEGOs," Stieglitz said. "I don't know why because I don't remember playing with LEGOs much when I was a kid. My degree is in civil engineering though — it used to be before I went to library school — but I've always been into building stuff."

On March 12, 18 fourth-graders in the club demonstrated just how far they had come when they unveiled their robot projects.

Each robot was programmed using step-by-step instructions with LEGO computer software that can make the robot do a series of tasks. There are no descriptions or verbiage for telling the robot what to do, so students have to figure it out from the visual icons and set them in a particular order to command the robot.

"After each step, it got easier and easier," said 10-year-old Cayden Torsberg. "At first it was confusing, but after we kept going, it got easier."

Each time a robot is created, Stieglitz gives it a challenge to accomplish, such as performing a series of steps. For Cayden, her robot was placed on a mat and had to follow a line to a standing rectangle object, knock into it, turn around and go to the finish line.

"I love technology and I think it's really fun and cool to do," Cayden said. "LEGOs are fun to build with, but I love technology."

While Cayden designed a robot for functionality, 10-year-old John Demakis designed his robot for destruction by adding in a rotating battle arm.

"Right now, it's a fighting robot," John said.

He already had one of the kits at home, but decided to get involved with the club because he wanted to learn how to make his robot better.

"The club is fun and I like challenging myself," he said.

The kits from LEGO were purchased by The Lane School's Parent Teacher Organization. Ever since, Stieglitz said the weekly club has increased in popularity among students because it combines creativity without the kids realizing how much they have to pay attention to detail.

"All these things make the kids think, but they don't know they're thinking because they're having so much fun," Stieglitz said.

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