PPL Launches LEGO Library Robotics Program

PEORIA — The Peoria Public Library North Branch is providing a new summer activity for children ages 9 to 14 years old.

The library launched the first of three planned sessions for its LEGO Library Robotics program that teaches children how to build computer-controlled robots out of special LEGOs, on July 7 in the McKenzie room. The other two sessions will be held on August 4 and September 8.

The Friends of Peoria Library purchased the LEGO Mindstorm kits for the program. The LEGO Mindstorm series of kits contain software and hardware to create small, customizable and programmable robots. They include a programmable “Brick” computer to control the system, a set of modular sensors and motors and LEGO parts from the LEGO Technics line to create the mechanical system.
At each free session, children are introduced to the parts in a LEGO Mindstorm kit and Brick computer programming as well as an explanation of the challenge, such as asking the robot to follow a line or navigate a maze. Teams are formed and encouraged to solve the challenge with their own solutions. Support and encouragement are given to the participants, without giving them the answers, allowing teams to use their own creativity to meet the challenge. Each team shows how they built and programmed their robot and demonstrates how they completed the assigned tasks.
“Each session centers around a particular challenge or topic,” said Peoria Public Library Public Relations Supervisor Trisha Noack. “Participants work in teams of four to build and program their robot to be able to accomplish their challenges or highlight the topics being discussed.
“For example, during the July sessions we focused on servo motor parts and worked toward building mobile robotics platforms able to go forward, backward and make different types of turns. With additional time, groups added additional functions to their robot, such as touch sensors, robotic arms or sounds.”
Reference Assistant at PPL North Branch Douglas King created the program.
“I have extensive hobby experience both with robotics and LEGO models, and I wanted to offer a fun program that would combine the creativity, reusability and durability of LEGO with science, engineering and technology topics,” said King. “By exposing them to it, they’ll be learning more than ‘I can be a teacher or a firefighter or a doctor or a nurse.’ Those are great things, but there’s a lot more out there, and it’s accessible to everyone. It’s not just something you have to be some super mad scientist, genius to do.”
Attendance for each session is limited to 24 children “due to the amount of materials and equipment,” said Noack.
“All (of the sessions) are full with growing waiting lists,” said Noack. “This is the first time it has been offered through Peoria Public Library. The current objective is for this summer and next, with potential for additional sessions.”
To learn more about the LEGO Library Robotics program or to put your child on the waiting list for the upcoming sessions, call the PPL North Branch at (309) 497-2103.