Students learn through LEGOs, robotics and competition

Apr. 24, 2013 @ 08:53 PM

Teens and tweens laughed and cried — but mainly laughed — Wednesday evening during the first-ever countywide robotic competition held by Lee County Schools.

Although it was a competition, organizers and parents said the most important aspect of the event was the was the work leading up to it, when students honed their academic expertise and gained experience working on group projects.

"She really enjoys it because it's a lot of teamwork involved," Amy Puryear said of her 12-year-old daughter Sarah, a sixth-grader on the West Lee Middle School team.

Added Robin Jones, whose 13-year-old son Cody Payne is a seventh-grader on the East Lee Middle School team: "It has affected his reasoning ability. He thinks about things much more critically."

Running back and forth at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center between table-top obstacle courses and computers — which the students used to program the robots to tackle the course without incident — the students guided their creations, made out of LEGOs, to work on miniature dams, wind turbines and solar panels.

Jones' husband David said he was glad Cody had this experience and opportunity.

"It gives him something to do other than play video games," he said with a laugh. "And who knows? Maybe he'll design toys now — or a missile."

Design was one of the categories teams were judged on in addition to teamwork/sportsmanship and how successful their robots were. Students and parents alike agreed the year-long activities that culminated in Wednesday's competition were useful in the classroom as well as outside of school.

Puryear, who said her daughter struggles a little in math, has gotten a big confidence boost out of the program, which she said was one of the things Sarah was most excited about when making the transition from elementary to middle school.

And when asked if they thought doing this project had helped them in the classroom, about 10 members of the SanLee team responded with an instant and resounding "Yes," talking over each other to explain how much they enjoyed it.

"It helps me be more open in class," 12-year old Brandy Fernandez said.

"It's fun to learn new things," 11-year-old Yannely Torres said.

Timothy Negron, 13, summed it up, saying he liked the combination of hobbies and academics: "Basically, it's robots and LEGOs. And I like robots and LEGOs."