CRESTVIEW — The sixth annual Ed-Spark STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Lego Robotics Camp kicked off Monday, July 24 at Shoal River Middle School.  

“Right now they are working on building a basic EV3 Tribot configuration; it’s standard with all the Lego Mindstorms and basically this is just to help them learn how to build and get used to the programming so when we give them challenges later this week they will be able to complete those efficiently,” said Jacob Thursby, a 17-year-old camp mentor and rising senior at Niceville High School.

“I went to this camp last year because I just have a fascination about robots, so my mom thought it would be a good idea to see how it is and that’s how I met my coach, Ms. Allen,” said Marysia Ray, 12, while building a robot with her classmate, Taylor Smith. 

After building their robots, campers then hook them to a computer using Bluetooth or “programming cords.”  

“They are going to build a Lego robot and they will use the programming from the computer and it will download onto the robot and the robot will work autonomously,” said Laurie Allen, the camp’s co-founder who is also a teacher at Shoal River Middle School.

Tim Sexton is a STEM teacher at Davidson Middle School who began the program with Allen after meeting her at the science center roughly six years ago.  

He said, “I really enjoyed playing — sorry, I mean working — with the Legos and wanted to start something new and … we wanted to build a robotics program [at] the north end of the county and to do so we started this camp.”

According to Sexton, the skills middle school students develop at the camp are manifold.  

“One is teamwork, they have to work with a person they probably never met before, and to work as a team to accomplish whatever given tasks after the robot is built," he said. "It also teaches them to modify and troubleshoot their robots when something isn’t working right, so there is some troubleshooting and engineering skills, [such as] building attachments that would work for emissions."