'Let the battle begin'
July 26-- Jul. 26--As two Lego robots were placed in a small battle arena, kids at the Clarkston branch of Walla Walla Community College gathered around, ready to see what they hoped would be a good fight.
The robots, programmed and constructed by 8-to-13-year-olds, were set to fight each other in a round robin elimination tournament Thursday.
"Let the battle begin," a kid screamed prior to the first match.
The bout ended in a tie after the robots caught onto each other and spun around in a circle. But the other rounds brought more excitement to the kids who participated in the summer Lego Robotics Camp.
Eight-year-old Lilly Metz and 12-year-old Kam Forsmann moved on to the championship battle.
As the match began, the small robots met in the middle of the mat. As Metz watched, she excitedly thumped her fists into the air. Her robot would ultimately take down Forsmann's creation, making her the champion of the SumoBot Challenge.
"I didn't think I would win, but I hoped I would and then I did," a proud Metz said following the faceoff.
It was the first time Metz had programmed or built a robot, but it captured her interest. Although she's not sure where she would like to take her new skill, she hopes to dabble more in other classes to explore the topic further.
"I like doing science stuff and I like robots," Metz said.
The Lego Robotics Camp had six students in all, but only three decided to compete in the competition that culminated the four-day class at WWCC.
Instructor Chris Mau said the small class size allows for a lot of one-on-one instruction and fine-tuning to the machines the students end up building.
One of the robots had a spinning arm, while others were programmed to perform a dance. Another robot raised its arms up and down as the "cheerleader" of the event.
The course, according to Mau, provides the kids an introductory taste into both engineering and programming in a fun, hands-on environment.
"It's important to get the kids familiar with technology and robots and to teach them not to be afraid of what programming is all about," Mau said.
As part of the process, the kids worked with coding, touch and light sensors, and motors.
It's the second year the Clarkston branch has offered a kids college, Mau said. The courses are designed to give young students a feel for the campus through age-appropriate classes.
"We hope they like coming to the college and we hope they will think of us as a choice for higher education after high school," Mau said.
Forsmann, who took second place in the competition, was excited about all he had accomplished.
"It was nice to build this and battle it and then take second," he said with a large grin.
The Clarkston student already had some experience with programming and coding at Heights Elementary School, he said.
He hopes to become a computer engineer and plans to take similar classes in the future.
"I would love to keep doing it," Forsmann said.
Tomtas may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.