The WMRN tent at the Marion, Ohio
County Fair was quiet. All eyes were on the paper maze and the Lego robot vehicle maneuvered through it. Two elementary school students knelt beside the maze, holding their breath in anticipation till their robot finished.
This scene was repeated often at the "Maze Mania," a robotic competition for Robo-Kids, a new
4H program for grades 3-5. Robo-Kids is a collaborative effort between Marion County 4H, the National Robotics
Challenge, and local businesses RobotWorx
sees Robo-Kids as an opportunity to get involved with robotics
education locally. The Marion-based robotics
company came on board in December 2007, sealing
its 2-year sponsorship commitment with a $2,500 donation.
is specifically sponsoring RoboVikes, the club at River Valley's Heritage Elementary School. Sixteen members strong, RoboVikes has taken off under the guidance of 4th
grade teacher and 4H leader Sue Itterly. The 4H students met in the months prior to the June 30th Maze Mania to build robotic vehicles with Lego kits and learn how to program them. Each kit includes all the necessary sensors, gears, Legos, as well as an RCX unit.
"The problem solving, teamwork, and analyzing that went on over the last few weeks will really make a difference in all of the kids' education," Itterly said.
This problem solving element was especially evident at Maze Mania. when Robo-Kids teams encountered unexpected challenges. The paper maze was placed on a carpeted stage, so a few teams had to reprogram their robots to handle this change in terrain.
Maze Mania included participants from Heritage, Elgin West Elementary, and Taft Elementary schools. Marion County OSU Extension Agent, Ron Sanderson, emceed the event and RobotWorx
President Keith Wanner presented award plaques to the winners.