A Hands-On Approach for Future Engineers

By Kay-Ann Kadeja Henry

May 2019

It is Friday morning and a score of kids are sprawled across a room in the Coral Gables Community Recreation Center. Some are huddled in small groups, others working alone, and still others running around yelling and laughing. All are fidgeting with LEGO® parts after wrapping up a week-long Bricks 4 Kidz program, which uses the plastic parts to help children build robots and teach them concepts of technology, engineering and architecture.

The children, most 5-to-12 years old, are part of the Spring Break edition of the LEGO® Robotics S.T.E.M. Summer Camp that will run weekly in June and July at the center. Over the course of the week, the kids created multiple robots comprised of LEGO bricks. Each day focused on a different theme, exploring popular characters from Batman, Pokemon and Star Wars, with group and individual projects. The kids told us their favorite was a mechanical dragon they created as a group. Individual “robots” usually involved a small electric motor to power wheels or robotic arms.

“They made some really cool stuff all week,” says Angela Rendon, director of the program. “You know they were really engaged and were really eager to get to the next day.”

This process of building with LEGOS® might seem simple enough, but it’s an efficient way of introducing children to S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills vital for their tomorrow. When we walked in, Rendon told us the children were engaged in “creative playing.” This was her term for children freely playing with LEGO® parts and creating what they wanted. The children, though loud, were intensely focused and didn’t seem interested in anything but the plastic building parts of their future.

Classes begin June 10 and are held weekly through Aug. 2 at the Coral Gables Community Recreation Center, 405 University Drive. 305.460.5600. $163 for residents, $122 members.