Kehler Smith of KVR Middle School works on his robot program as Dylan Low of Summerland Middle School watches on. Mark Brett/Western News

Robots for fun and education

Robots gone wild.

The upstairs library at Penticton Secondary School was a hub of pre-coded artificial intelligence Saturday as 48 students from School District 67 took part in Robotics Day.

“We’re hoping to grab some students who are interested in this type off technology and that they’ll further their education in terms of learning more technologies,” said Trevor Knowlton, the district’s career co-ordinator who was there with assistant superintendent Todd Manuel. “We’re hoping this type of event will capture their interest and it’s a lot of fun too and they’re also learning math skills as well.”

Robotics is just one of the hands-on projects that make up the district’s Space School program.

There was no lack of interest on the part of students (grades 4 to 8) and families interested spending a day off in the interstellar classroom.

“It filled up very quickly, all 48 spots were filled up within 24 hours,” said Knowlton. “There’s huge interest in this and much excitement. We’re doing it under our space school umbrella and the students are very interested in this type of technology.

“So right now we’re hearing some great things. It’s supposed to be snack break but a lot of them are still working on their robots, trying to figure things out and they’re doing a lot of math at the same time. Learning these types of skills will help them in any career that they choose.”

Dereck Dirom of Abbotsford brought the Mindstorm robots and the programming tools for the students to use as well as instructing them in the proper techniques.

One of the special coding challenges he offered participants was a large board where students had to program their robots to collect resources.

“Go to space and mine things like astroids,” Dirom told his young audience. “To bring it off the Earth is too expensive so if we can get it up there and we can get it a lot cheaper for Mars or the Moon or wherever we are going to go.”

Judging by the smiles throughout the day at their successes the kids were having fun, and learning at the same time.

“It’s sort of like school but not really,” said Megan Tiessen, a Summerland Middle School student. “It’s frustrating but it’s not like your head is going to explode. It’s really fun and I enjoy it.”

Her classmate Addy Knowlton added: “There are lots of different challenges you have to try and complete and change every time so it’s really fun.”