PITTSBURG — For the past month and a half, children in the Pittsburg area have been learning to build and program robots.
Last fall, Pittsburg Public Library applied for a technology grant from the Southeast Kansas Library System, headquartered in Iola. In November the library found out it had been awarded the grant, according to James Swafford, head of information technology for the library.
The library used the grant money to buy several Tetrix Prime robotics kits, made locally by Pitsco Education, and Swafford recently began leading the library’s robotics program, a free class offered from 4 to 5 p.m. every Thursday for kids ages 10 to 18.
The first Pittsburg Public Library robotics class was Feb. 7. As many as 11 or 12 students have shown up for a single session of the program, Swafford said, although a more ideal class size for he and library computer lab assistant Bailey Bennett to deal with is about 8 kids. Some of Swafford’s robotics students have been coming back for almost every class after attending the first one offered.
“I think it’s fun,” said Katie Austerman, a seventh grader at Frontenac Junior High. “It gives me something to do instead of being at home not doing anything. It’s really cool to learn how to build robots.”
At the March 21 robotics class, Austerman was working on a more complex Tetrix Prime robot than the ones students assemble on their first day. “When it’s done it’ll have a crane on it to where it can pick up things and transport them,” she said, “and just how you program it will kind of decide what it will do.”
Austerman also said she was learning skills she could potentially benefit from later in life when she has a clearer idea what kind of career she wants to pursue.
“I don’t really know yet what I’m going to do when I get older,” she said, “but this is really fun and I might do something like this when I’m older.”
Zytin Taylor, a fourth grader at Westside Elementary who was attending his first day of the library’s robotics classes March 21, similarly said the program was a lot of fun, and he might want to do something related to robotics when he is older.
Taylor said he was excited to go to the robotics class after his mom asked him the previous day if he was interested in attending. “All day at school I was talking about it almost,” he said.
Taylor added that he had seen Lego robots before, but never had the opportunity to play with any robots. He said he would recommend the library’s robotics program to other kids, and wanted to come back for the next class.