At Futurekids, Computer Logic Rules

July 07, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

It all starts with a peanut butter sandwich.

And after campers at Robotics Summer Camp master the art of building the sandwich, they move on to designing cars, traffic lights, clothes dryers and merry-go-rounds out of Lego play sets and then write their own programs to make the toys work.

All the while, they are learning logical thinking skills, computer programming and how to pay attention to detail -- skills not generally acquired in regular classrooms.

"You can do anything almost on a computer if you work together and put your mind to it," said 9-year-old Laura Strawberry, a veteran of the Robotics Summer Camp, held at FUTUREKIDS Computer Learning Center in Severna Park.

She attended the introductory level camp last year and plans to attend an advanced course next month.

She said the camp was fun because "you can make the Legos work on the computer. You can't do that at home."

Joanne Masone, owner and director of the Severna Park FUTUREKIDS, said the purpose of the Robotics camp and the other computer camps is to teach children skills they can use for life.

"Children are naturally computer-friendly," she said. "We want to take that natural friendliness and build upon it."

Each Robotics class begins by teaching the campers how to give step-by-step instructions.

Instructors lay out all the materials needed for a peanut butter sandwich, and the children tell the instructor what to do.

"Before you know it, the teacher has five things in her hand because they never told her to put anything down," said Ms. Masone.

As class continues, they use building plans from Lego Dacta building kits to construct a traffic light. The kits come with touch and light sensors, wires and connectors.

Then, using a programming language called TC LOGO, they write a program to make the lights glow for the desired amount of time.

Their final challenge is to construct an inchworm -- a motorized vehicle that moves like its namesake -- without building plans and to write a program that would make it move correctly.

This is a particular challenge because the wheels on the inchworm are controlled by two motors, and they must move at different rates of speed.

Children ages 8 to 14 are eligible to participate in this camp. Though there are more boys, Ms. Masone encourages girls to join the classes.

"There are no male or female roles in logical thinking," she said. "Learning to work with computers is as important as learning how to read."

Classes are held for three hours and last for four days.

Openings are still available for the next camp, which will be held July 11-14.

There are also openings in the advanced Robotics class, Aug. 8-11.

FUTUREKIDS holds other four day camps that stress graphic design, animation, desktop publishing and word processing. Prices range from $140 to $175.

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