Robots rule the day

There are some important design criteria for robot construction.

Kannon Graham, 10, of Fort Dodge, a member of the Douglas Dreamers 4-H Club who was putting one together Saturday with fellow club members Cadyn Lundberg, 9, and Caleb Acree, 10, said those criteria are pretty simple.

“It has to run right,” Graham said. Also, “not explode.”

Building, programming and troubleshooting their Lego robots was part of a STEM Robotics day hosted by ISU Webster County Extension and Outreach at its Fort Dodge offices in the Crossroads Mall.

More than 30 students, in fourth through seventh grade and from five counties, participated.

Getting the robots to do what they wanted them to do was a trial and error process of testing, programming, testing again, and adjusting the various servos, motors and sensors.

“You have to position everything just right,” Graham explained.

The robots the students were building Saturday were intended to navigate a course of lines taped onto the floor.

But what if they could do other things?

Graham had a ready answer: “Chase my cat around.”

Lundberg’s answer also involved an animal: “It would play with my dog.”

Acree, on the other hand, suggested something more practical.

“It would do my chores,” he said.

Jake Brandt, 13, of Clarion, was working with teammates Parker McIntosh, 11, and her brother Trower, 9.

They called their team The Robot Cyber Men.

“It’s from ‘Dr. Who’,” Parker McIntosh explained.

The machine had a name too.

“Just call it Bob,” Jake Brandt said.

Parker McIntosh has some previous experience with the robot program. She participated in a building competition last year and plans on doing so again.

Her ultimate robot won’t chase cats, play with dogs or do chores.

“It would be metallic wings for me,” she said. “I would have wings.”

Amy Craven, of the Humboldt ISU Extension office, was watching three of her students working on their project.

“To me,” Craven said, “it’s amazing.”

The kids take home important lessons, she said.

“Teamwork is the top thing.”

But, too, there is reading, following directions and using their intellect to solve problems.

Linda Cline, Webster County youth coordinator, was happy with the response to the program and would like to see it develop into a team that would compete.

That would require more help.

“We’re looking for a volunteer to coach a team,” she said.

For more information or to volunteer, ISU Extension can be reached at 576-2119.