- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - Wyatt Sparks’ creation was simple as far as robots go: It consisted mostly of two toilet paper rolls holding up a piece of card stock with a face drawn on it.

The simple device also had two LEDs as eyes, which Wyatt wired into a computer chip, which he was able to use to program the lights to blink in a preset pattern.

Not a bad attempt at making a robot, for a fifth-grader.

Sparks was programming the lights as part of a project in Adams Elementary School’s weekly programming club, which started in January. The school offers a variety of free after-school clubs, including four student-interest clubs that rotate every few months or so to give students another club opportunity, along with mainstays like music and gardening clubs.

During a recent Tuesday club session, about 20 students worked on robots like Wyatt’s or spent time programming games and animations in a program called Scratch.

Ashley Cooper, a parent volunteer with the club, said she helped start the club in response to her daughter expressing an interest in learning to program.

She said the club teaches kids skills like problem solving and thinking sequentially and helps them practice reading as well as math.

“I think it turns them into active innovators instead of passive consumers,” she said.

Wyatt said he thought it was fun learning to have control over animations and electronics.

“I think it is interesting. I get to do stuff here that I usually don’t get to do at home,” he said.

Principal Byron Bethards said the club gives students a chance to be creative - they all come up with their own ideas for what to do with the programming tools. Some of the students were programming games where players navigate icons through a maze; one student was animating a video involving pictures of dogs, cats and a bowl of cheese puffs.

“It’s important because it fosters creativity and innovation,” Bethards said.

He added that the club is surprisingly social: students help teach each other things and share their work with each other.

“They are interacting differently socially than they have before,” he said. “They are collaborating.”

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Information from: Gazette-Times, https://www.gtconnect.com


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