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WMS LEGOS GROUP: Robotics club parlays technology into life lessons

December 11, 2012

Photo contributed Members of Whitko Middle School’s Lego Robotics club prepare their project before their state competition held Saturday at IPFW. Pictured clockwise, from top, are Chase Nave, Brandon Egolf, Zarek Courtney, Coach Teresa Knepple and Devin Spring.

LARWILL — Whitko Middle School students represented their school in a state robotics competition Saturday at IPFW. Lego Robotics is an extra-curricular club at WMS and gives students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade a chance to try their hand at designing, building and programming Lego robots.

Teresa Knepple is the group’s coach and is a teacher at WMS. This is the first time Knepple and the WMS team has advanced to the state competiton. The group has been competing for seven years, but been in existence for 13.
“Legos are non-threatening,”said Knepple. “Kids get to learn in a toy setting and the idea of working with toys means the experience in inviting.”

The skills needed within the club range from problem solving as well as practical programing and design. Knepple allows the students to teach themselves and provides tries to take a hands-off approach when it comes to coaching the group.

Even the programming is somewhat self taught. Knepple provides the students with a tutorial, basic instruction and a computer. The rest is up to them. Outside of learning the logistics of programming and building, the students learn valuable life skills that can migrate into other areas of life. Lessons include teamwork, communication, trouble shooting, patience and problem solving. The club works on a 4 foot by 8 foot game board and within that space, the Lego robot must perform the functions designed by the students.

Those that compete automatically earn a $500 scholarship to Purdue University. That is a bonus Knepple said is more and more attractive to parents. The club meets after school for more than six hours over the course of a week. For Knepple, all of those hours are just as important as the time spent inside the classroom.

The idea of working for months on a project and watching it take shape is a rewarding experience, but Knepple said it is the students’ personal development that makes her the proudest.

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