ACA’s Lego Robotics Club

Jack Taggart

The Charter News

11/18/19

ACA’s Lego Robotics club got started when Tara McLaughlin, Lego team coach and mother of two ACA students considered starting a Lego team at ACA, similar to the one she and her children had participated in at a school they previously attended.

“I thought a homeschool environment could really benefit from [a] robotics outlet… I know how many kids in this school seem very technically advanced and interested,  and I thought we could have a good big group of kids interested.”

More often than not, things don’t go according to plan, and some creative innovation is required.

 And interested they are. Peek in on the lego club in the after-school hours, and you will see 4-6 kids working building, programming, and testing robots with intense focus. “I’m learning programming, problem solving, and robot building skills,” says Silas Neumayer, a fifth grader at ACA, and a member of ACA’s Lego team. “It’s really fun.”

The main purpose of the Lego Robotics club is to teach teamwork, problem solving, and of course, robotics. Some basic elements of robotics coding are also involved (such as writing code for a robot to turn around, go a certain distance, etc.)  There are two groups who participate in ACA’s Lego club: 

  • The non-competitive team, which generally consists of kids first starting in lego robotics, who learn the basics of simple robotics. 
  • There is also the competitive team, in which kids learn some of the more complex aspects of robotics. The competitive team also works with programing and teamwork, all of which are used in competitions. 
Members of ACA’s First Lego League Lego robotics team work on building a tuned mass damper, a contraption designed to damper structural vibration in skyscrapers and other large buildings.

Lego teams compete with other schools in tournaments. In the tournaments, a team is asked to complete a certain task, such as having a robot travel a certain distance, turn at a certain point, pick up an object, or other combinations of different tasks. Challenges are often designed to solve real world problems. The tasks are timed, and contestants are given points for completing tasks correctly. Often, the tasks are made to replicate and solve real-world problems, such as air pollution, or trash disposal, “like real world tasks,” says Owen McLaughlin, a student at ACA, and member of ACA’s Lego Robotics team. 

Although the Lego Robotics club at ACA is nothing new, it has been growing in popularity among students. Unfortunately, you can not currently become a member of the lego club, as the sign up time was in September, and the slots are full with six students, due to the fact that there is only one coach, Tara McLaughlin. But there may be a club later this year.

Ethan Walsh, a non ACA student, regularly attends and competes with the school’s Lego robotics club.

“There’s not enough coaches, and with teams like this, you can imagine that a team of more than six kids, it gets difficult to work on one robot… or having one coach to try to navigate through it,” says McLaughlin. However, that may soon change.  “I had so many kids asking about it, that I’m going to try to have a longer running club, starting in January.” The purpose of the club will be to act as a way were people who want to learn about the basics of robotics, robotic programming, and so forth.  

Although McLaughlin is still ironing out the wrinkles in her plan, many students are looking forward with great expectations to being able to join the Lego Robotics club. She says sign up sheets should be available in January.

Scources:

McLaughlin, Owen. Personal interview. November. 14, 2019.

McLaughlin, Tara. Personal interview. November. 14, 2019.

Neumayer, Silas. Personal interview. November. 18, 2019.

http://www.firstlegoleague.org/ Accessed 18 November 2019.

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