by Tracey Mills
Putting her robot on track — a junior high school
student demonstrates just what this robot can do.
By Tracey Mills
Lego is no longer just another children’s toy. With
the advent of the Lego Mindstorm robotics kit, children of
all ages are being exposed to science and engineering principles
by learning how to build and program a robot to do simple
The potential for these kits to excite young people about
engineering and science careers has not gone unnoticed. Teachers
from the Avalon East School District, working in collaboration
with faculty members in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied
Science, are making sure that full advantage is taken of this
For the past two years, junior high schools in the St. John’s
area have been involved in an enrichment program in robotics.
Operating out of the Instrumentation, Control and Automation
Centre (INCA) at Memorial and taught by both faculty and graduate
students in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science,
this enrichment program gives young students the chance to
do hands-on robotic design, be creative, and really work together
as part of a team.
“The students who have been involved in the enrichment
program love it,” said Clarence Button, one of the coordinators
for the enrichment program and a teacher at O’Donnell
High School. “It is really amazing how much they learn
in such a short time. They get to see the applications of
science first-hand and this often renews their interest in
the subject when they return to their classes.”
by Tracey Mills
Ready, set go... Students get ready for the popular
Dr. Ray Gosine, Engineering, could not agree
“This year we had over 500 students show an interest
in the robotics enrichment course. Courses like this leave
a marked impression upon the students. They are at a stage
where they are forming impressions about what it means to
be a doctor or an engineer. Having a hands-on learning opportunity
really helps to shape these impressions and gives them a solid
This year mechanical engineering student Nick Janes and engineering
graduate student Rose Wilson got to help out and teach the
four-day robotics course. It was not only a lot of fun, but
also a chance to meet the up-and-coming future engineers.
“The course is a great introduction to software for
kids. But best of all it is a lot of fun. They get to build
their own robots using the Lego Mindstorm kit, program them
to perform specified tasks and then compete in a ‘wrestling’
match,” said Ms. Wilson.
Their enthusiasm for the subject was contagious, added Mr.
Janes. “Each student wanted to be there and it showed.
They all said they wanted to come back and they wanted the
course to be longer. If we have helped increase their interest
in science, then that is something we should be very happy
|Did you know that junior
high school students can now compete at an international
level with the First Lego League? For more information
please visit .
The Avalon East School District and the Faculty
of Engineering and Applied Science plan to partner next year
to offer the course again, and this time more students will
get the chance to take part. Making this connection with young
students is a part of the faculty’s plan to stimulate
interest in engineering and its applications within the wider
community. And it does not have to stop there.
“There are many other areas where we can collaborate
with the local schools and give younger students the opportunity
to come to Memorial and see what we do here,” added
Dr. Gosine. “Opportunities like this are just the beginning.”