Tech

Kids learn STEM skills during robot building class

Sylvan Learning Centre's class gives kids a chance to build and program a robotic alligator

Kids learn to code robots during a class at Sylvan Learning Centre
Kids learn to code robots during a class at Sylvan Learning Centre.   Sofia Ortega Arrieta

Lots of Lego pieces on the table are waiting to come to life in the hands of little kids.

The classroom is cozy and colourful, and in the corner, there’s a spinning ferris wheel hooked up to a computer that’s coded to make it move.

This is a robotics workshop session for kids put on by Sylvan Learning Centre located on Quinpool Road.

The kids are showing up accompanied by their parents and soon the classroom is full. These kids came to have fun but they don’t know that they’ll be learning at the same time.

Today, the goal is to build an alligator that opens and closes its mouth. The professor explains the instructions and the 12 kids in the classroom get to work.

“I think is the first time I’ve done this, but it’s lots of fun,” says 11-year-old Alesia.

Robotics is the science of making and using robots. By definition, a robot is a machine controlled by a computer that is used to perform jobs automatically.

Every session is one hour long and begins with a small talk about what a robot is and how a robot works.

After that, the teacher explains what kind of robot the kids are about to build, it could be an animal or any kind of creation.

The kids work in teams, and after watching a video and listening the instructions, they start putting the robot’s body together from Lego pieces. This include bricks, gears, connectors, a motor and other parts.

Once they finish building their robot, they hook it up to the computer and code it to interact with them.

The robot can move, make sounds and even send messages to other computers.

The Sylvan Learning Centre was looking for ways to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to children and inspire them at the same time. That’s why it started running robotics workshops.

During the workshops, kids not only learn how to build and program robots with Lego bricks and software, but also they gain some skills.

“Robotics stimulates children’s creativity, they can create whatever their mind can come up with,” said Hannah Horne, executive director of the learning centre.

“Another part is troubleshooting, what happens when something doesn’t work, can you go through the process of taking it apart, following the steps, looking for something that doesn’t make sense?” she said.

The kids also learn STEM vocabulary. Words like gear, motor and pulley, are no longer unknown to them and they can use them all through their lives.

Parents bringing their children to the workshop feel they’re offering their kids a chance to learn something fun that might also lead to a career.

“They are learning and they don’t even realize it. To them is just fun and games with a computer, so I think it’s a great way to get them excited about learning,” Catharine Lailso, mom of one of the children said.

Robotics, coding, engineering and math, all the different skills and concepts don ?t need to be something scary or hard to get into or only for geniuses, it’s something that anybody can do.