Ahoy, robots!

LB brings bots to the beach

Date Published: 
Aug. 11, 2017

Coastal Point • Laura Walter:  Branden Lathbury, left, and Logan Shoobridge display their Lego VEX robot at the Bethany Beach banCoastal Point • Laura Walter: Branden Lathbury, left, and Logan Shoobridge display their Lego VEX robot at the Bethany Beach banThese kids didn’t mind going to school in summer, as Lord Baltimore Elementary School hosted a robotics summer camp for 10 students in which they designed, built and programed their own robots.

“It was hard, but it was really fun to work with each other,” said rising fifth-grader Jay Lockard.

The 10 children from the upper grades at the school split into three teams, and each team built their own Lego VEX robot. Starting with a box of plastic pieces, they learned team-building, strategizing, construction, programing and some coding.

“I was surprised about how we took all these tiny, tiny pieces and put this together,” said Whitney McMillon, technology teacher.

“It’s like Legos on steroids,” said Principal Pam Webb.

The eight-day camp culminated in an exhibition at Bethany Beach bandstand on Aug. 3. In each round, two robots would partner with two humans to earn the most points possible together on a competition board. In the ring, students controlled the robots to gain points by stacking, hanging or pushing colorful rings into the score zone.

“We definitely have seen where the kids will come in with very little knowledge of robotics. Eight days later, they’re able to name the parts,” said McMillon.

Indeed, during the break, Lockard told his father about his team’s technical difficulties: the gears were jamming near the axle.

Two teams needed an intermission to make repairs, which is common in the wide world of robotics competition.

“They’re hard to build. They’re fun to do,” Lockard said, but they’re also very precise. “You have to have the right parts in the right spot, and you have to have it all perfect, or it won’t work.”

Coastal Point • Laura Walter: James Clifton shows off his robotics skills at the Bethany Beach bandstand on Thursday, Aug. 3.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: James Clifton shows off his robotics skills at the Bethany Beach bandstand on Thursday, Aug. 3.His team designed extra-long claws for their robot, called “Braniac.”

“We made the claws go higher up, so it could reach higher and get more points,” Lockard said. “It did better than I thought it was going to do.”

Although the students, parents and teachers were sweating in the early morning August sun, they attracted some attention. Webb said a family from Maryland wandered over to watch and even some lifeguards were hanging out their headquarters’ window to see the action.

LB will also begin an afterschool robotics club this autumn. They hope to compete against other elementary schools and create a feeder program for the award-winning local middle school teams.

Families can find information on the school website or in fliers coming home with children.

LB hosted the summer program with federal Title I money and a Tanger Outlets grant. LB is ready to continue that work in the fall, with recent staff training and new Assistant Principal Travis Bower’s experience in coaching robotics teams.