Playing with LEGOs isn’t what it used to be—especially if you’ve got the brains of the kids in La Grange’s first robotics club.
The Cyborg Eagles will spend the next three months engineering a robot out of LEGO MINDSTORMS, among other components, which will compete this December in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Tech Challenge.
“It’s always been my dream to make my own robot,” said Noah Reardon, 14, a freshman at LTHS. His brother Jonah, 13, is also part of the club.
Even though the club officially organized this summer, its members previously competed together in a 4H robotics league. About half of the kids go to Park Junior High and the other half attends Lyons Township High School. They work under the guidance of retired electrical engineer Bruce Petersen.
Petersen, of Lisle, brings to the Cyborg Eagles his experience as a mentor to a high school robotics team out of the Illinois Institute of Technology.
He and the kids met throughout the summer at the La Grange Public Library to begin training and teambuilding.
“It’s a cool program,” Petersen said. “They learn so much: project management, leadership, self confidence, math and applied physics, so they see how it’s used in a real application.”
The team will find out on Saturday the theme of this year’s FIRST challenge. In previous years, the robots have had to complete tasks such as building a small house or shooting baskets.
Aside from guidelines for the specs and materials, Petersen said there are few limits to how the robots take shape.
“It gets pretty sophisticated, and it’s a really, really good education for the kids,” he said. “… . There is no one right robot, so everyone gets to design their own.”
It takes about $1,000 to launch a club, and then another $1,000 for each trip, Petersen said. The Cyborg Eagles got some funding from 4H this year, but they’ll be looking for sponsors to keep them going.
The club made its public debut about two weeks ago at the LTHS Co-Curricular Night. LTHS’ Technology Club admired the robots so much that its members decided to form a robotics team, too.
“My rookie team has started another rookie team,” Petersen said with pride, adding that his team at IIT has inspired four offshoots.
Both the Cyborg Eagles and the IIT team will convene this weekend as the 2013 challenge is announced. They’ll spend the day teambuilding, reviewing the rules and studying how the game is played.
If they advance in December during the FIRST Tech Challenge qualifying rounds, they’ll continue competing through the spring for the opportunity to vie for the world championship in April.
Noah, for one, isn’t phased.
“A lot of people are intimidated by the challenge or fear it may be too hard,” he said. “But everyone starts somewhere, and once you know some basic things you can make robots.”
Interested in supporting the Cyborg Eagles? Visit the team website: cyborgeagles.weebly.com.