Children aged nine to 14 in Parksville and Qualicum Beach have the opportunity to be a part of a brand new robotics team.
The Calgary-based JunioTech Kids Academy has partnered with Parksville engineer and active member of the maker community Chris Morrissey to bring the First Lego League Competitive Robotics team to the area for 2018-19 championship season.
The 12-week course, beginning Oct. 20, is open to 10 kids eager to take part in a STEM- based program. And to learn about robots, of course. The pilot-program will take place in the Oceanside Community Makerspace, 133 McMillan St.
Teams can take part in Canadian and international competitions, with the first one being in Victoria in February.
“It is a program where kids are given the task to solve a bunch of Lego missions,” Morrissey said. “This year it’s themed around space exploration so you’re supposed to send an astronaut up a space elevator or you’re supposed to put an astronaut into an air-tight sealing chamber.”
Teams are given an “impossibly large amount of missions to complete,” Morrissey said, that are up to the students to plan and conquer.
“[The children] first start seeing what components are needed, so they create a plan, a strategy and eventually once they think that strategy will work they will try to build a robot that can implement that strategy,” Morrissey said. “And lastly they then have to program it. It’s a quite evolved critical analyzing, as well as team building, process before you can get to the point where you can solve a lot of these missions.”
In addition to team building, First Lego League is aimed to teach children about innovation, inclusion, discovery, creativity and adaptation.
“The main aspect the kids will take from this program is the technical aspect,” Morrissey said. “There is the design, building and testing of the robots, that’s one of the main reasons they sign up for the program. There will be a very big team, fun, creative mentorship building experience also.”
The idea for Lego League came to Morrissey through a conversation with a parent of one of the kids in his free robot program already running on weekends at the Makerspace.
“It was kind of a fluke that it happened,” Morrissey said.
“I met a parent who had moved from Calgary and he mentioned that his son was really looking into registering into more science or STEM-based after school programs and in his views the options were really limited. He mentioned JunioTech so I basically contacted them directly about it and they were just as excited to bring this to Parksville as I was.”
The Oceanside Community Makerspace is excited to support Morrissey in teaching young kids how to work with Lego EV3 robots in the world-wide competitive program.
“[Morrissey] will be working closely with a well established group based in Calgary — JunioTech Kids Academy. Having a track record of being very successful teaching students to win at these competitive events, they are offering to mentor and support Chris, in an effort to help the spread of these necessary skills across Canada, starting here in the Parksville area,” said Makerspace co-ordinator John Eyre.
“OC Makerspace and Chris have agreed to include an OCM membership for the students that sign up to the 12-week course. This will allow for the use of the Makerspace extended facilities.”