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Kids become engineers for a day at JCC

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Just for this week, robots are taking over.

At Jefferson Community College, that is.

Engineering 101, a JCC kids camp for students from third to fifth grade, teaches children the basics of engineering, including building spaghetti bridges and Lego Mind Storm robots.

“We’re hoping to change their perception of what engineering is,” said instructor Genny E. Pond during class on Monday. “It’s helping people solve problems rather than building a bridge.”

The course includes finding out what engineering means and doing team building activities to emphasize how professional engineers often work when trying to build what is requested.

Toward the end of the day, the nearly 20 students in the course had split off into groups of threes to create a robot that could zoom around the classroom, respond to light and detect any obstacles it may run into.

“Right now, they’re learning the kit, and tomorrow we’ll give them a challenge,” she said. “We’ll probably do some spaghetti bridges tomorrow.”

Solomon R. Rosner, 10, said he took the class because he “thought it would be pretty cool.”

His group was installing a sonar sensor in their robot and trying to figure out how to get it to spin in circles. They showed it to Mrs. Pond before going back to their desk to work on it the last few minutes of class.

“Our basic goal is to make it drive forward and make it turn,” he said. “There’s a little competition for who has the best robot.”

In another group, Julia C. Kempton, the sole girl in the class, had developed a robot that played a tune and had a light sensor. She said finding the right pieces in the kit to complete a working robot was the most challenging aspect of the class.

“I used Lego Mind Storm when I was at home during the winter,” she said. “I took this class because I want to be an engineer when I grow up.”

The workshop runs until today, and the engineering course for students in sixth to eighth grade will run Wednesday and Thursday.

“We’re just trying to get them excited about it,” said Mrs. Pond. “And we hope they become engineers someday.”

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