LEWISTON — It’s a simple enough idea: mix children, robots and some basic instruction and you’ll get a fun evening.
At the Lewiston Public Library, they have the children, the robots and the space to train them. All they need is some dedicated adults to keep things moving.
“If we get too many kids and not enough adults, things can kind of bog down,” David Moorhead, children’s librarian, said. “That’s been one of the big things for us, getting parents involved.”
The library’s Robo Dojo is a quiet public program, with little fanfare announcing its presence. Thanks to a grant from the 4-H program, the library was able to purchase five Lego NXT Robotics kits — enough to build five different and completely programmable Lego robots. They can be programmed to move, stop, turn on a command, sense changes in light or read simple commands.
It’s free for children, but they must bring an adult to help them, and that adult needs to take an online training briefing provided by the 4-H program.
That’s been a hurdle for the Lewiston group.
“We get a lot of kids that come to programs in the library, but we do not get a lot of parents,” he said. “We don’t need a bunch, but we need a few.”
He’s encouraged parents to come along and is working with Bates College to find student volunteers to help out.
“And high school students — they’re supposed to do public service volunteer work,” Moorhead said. “This might be a way for them to do that.”
Things were a little chaotic on one particular Tuesday night, even though only two groups are participating. Parent Adilah Muhammad was helping her sons Jabreel, 10, and Farid, 8, work on one set of robots.
“We’re concentrating on building our robots first, but some kids have started learning how to program them,” Jabreel said.
A few feet away, Bates College sophomore Becky Smith is helping 14-year-old Ryan Marshall set up his robot. Lewiston resident John Roberts is helping out, although he’s only supposed to watch.
For Adilah Muhammad, it started last year with a dime and couple of Skittles. Her sons love their Legos and learned how to create a coin-operated candy vending machine by watching a YouTube video.
“It’s been the Legos all along, but I’ve encouraged them to create their own designs,” she said. “You can only buy so many Lego kits before you realize you’re building other people’s ideas. They wanted to come up with ideas on their own.”
She saw a flier in the library for the Robo Dojo and thought her boys might be interested.
“It does take it to another level,” she said.
Jabreel said he ultimately wants to combine the Lego robotics with his vending machine skills, making some unique Lego systems of his own.
“I mean, people already made a Lego ATM with NXT programs,” he said. “They’ve made some really cool things you can build.”
Do you know a creative person with a technological bent? We’d love to talk to them. Contact Staff Writer Scott Taylor at [email protected], on Twitter as Orange_me or call 207-689-2846.