Campers build Lego robots

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Erik Kaufman, a first-year Team 935 member, helps campers build and program a robot out of Legos during the RaileRobotics Lego Camp this week.

What has turned out to be one of the best fundraisers of the year for Railer Robotics Team 935 has become one of the best volunteer gigs students in the robotics program can get during the year. 

"I have been having a lot of fun," said Erik Kaufman, a first-year Team 935 member. "It has been a fun week, and I hope we finish strong."

This was, in turn, his first Lego camp. 

More than a fundraiser, the camp helps give younger students a taste of the robotics team life. RaileRobotics participates in FIRST Robotics, which means each year the team learns new competition rules and goals, then spends just a few short weeks building a robot from almost nothing for competition. 

Kaufman spent this week helping elementary and middle school children build robots out of legos during "Lego Camp," a week-long experinece for children in grades three through seven. 

He's a part of the programming team for the high school team, meaning he is writing code and working on wiring and  motor controls for the full-size robot. This week has been a little bit different challenge. 

"it has been challenging in different ways, Kaufman said. "The younger group needs a different type of support. After a couple of days it started to get easier to do."

During RaileRobotics Lego Camp, a team of four campers is paired with two members of RaileRobotics Team 935, a robotics team at Newton High School.

This year there were two sessions of camp, elementary school children constructed and programed robots in the morning, while middle school students did the same in the afternoon.

"We're limited by the number of high school students we have to help," said Kenna Graber, a team mentor and organizer of the camp. " Once you have more than about four in a group, they are not able to work together as well on tasks,"

That means this year there were three groups of four campers paired with two high school robotics students in each session. 

Each Lego robot can take on a number of challenges, and each building team showed off what they were able accomplish to parents and others on Friday. In just four half-day build sessions teams were able to create working, programmed robots. 

This week was RaileRobotic's Team 935 Lego Camp at Newton High School.

Tasks robots can be constructed to take on include pushing Lego buildings, flipping switches and other tasks. 

'"There is a long list of tasks they can choose to do," Kaufman said.