CHESTERVILLE — A quiet buzz of anticipation fills the Selover Library community room one recent evening as local students wait at their tables for the session to begin. It’s the second meeting of a beginning robotics program, and the room is charged with the excitement of exploring something new.
Librarian Alan Wall chats with the kids, reminding them that they will continue building the partially assembled robots that sit at each of the five tables.
Then he says the words they’ve been waiting for: “Go ahead and start.”
The noise level increases as the students pull out their instruction sheets and engineering notebooks, reaching for the turquoise and silver parts that will turn the toaster-sized hunks of plastic and metal in front of them into running robots.
Selover Library is entering its third year offering a robotics program. Robotics at the library began when RAMTEC at Tri-Rivers Career Center in Marion provided Selover Library with VEX IQ robot kits and staff training in 2015, and teen coaches for their first session in 2016.
Since then, 65 students and 13 teen coaches have participated in the program.
The current group of 10 students make up the fifth Level 1 group that Selover Library has instructed. During Level 1, participants learn to build a robot from instructions, drive it with a remote control, and program it to run autonomously through a maze. They work as teams, switching off roles so each gets experience with the hands-on work and with recording details in their notebooks.
At the end of Level 1, they take part in a competition. There, the teams are judged on their engineering notebooks and knowledge, their ability to drive their robot, and their programming skills.
Students who complete Level 1 are able to move on to Level 2, where they learn to use sensors, and Level 3, where they complete a mock space station task with robots they’ve designed and programmed themselves.
Librarian Tammy Keefer, who organizes and runs Selover Robotics, sees the program as a jumpstart to robotics engineering.
“The VEX IQ program feeds into more advanced robotics for the kids, whether in the programs at Highland, Cardington, or RAMTEC,” she said. “They can try it now and see if it’s something they’d like to pursue.”
Thirteen-year-old Anna Cleveland agrees.
She completed all three levels of Selover Robotics, and she enjoyed it so much that she’s considering robotics engineering at RAMTEC. “I’m interested in it,” Cleveland said. “I’m also interested in culinary arts, so combining those two.” She would like to design robots that assist in the kitchen.
The children who joined this latest class decided to participate for a variety of reasons. Chase Jordan, age 9, had tried robotics in his school math class but wanted a little more challenge. “I thought this would be a little bit harder, so I thought I’d give it a try.”
Baylee Johnson, 10, has a sister who participated in a robotics program, and she didn’t want to miss out. “When I heard of the opportunity to go here,” Baylee said, “I thought it would be a good chance to finally get some robotics skills.”
Some were attracted to the hands-on opportunities that robotics offers. “I just like putting stuff together,” said Carson Kessler, 11.
Others took a little more persuasion. “I didn’t want to do it at first,” ten-year-old Louis Irons said. His mother suggested that he should try it. “And I loved it,” he said.
Selover librarians get to see this love for robotics at every step of the students’ learning. It will be on display for everyone during the end-of-level competition. The public is invited to attend the next competition on Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Highland Middle School.
RAMTEC students will also be there demonstrating their robots.
Selover Robotics is open to students ages 9 to 17 and in at least the fourth grade. Parents who would like to add their children to the waiting list for the next Level 1 session can sign them up at http://selover.lib.oh.us/registration.