Kids create and destroy at this LEGO camp

pseligson@newsobserver.comJuly 11, 2014 

These kids didn’t mind if their LEGO creations got destroyed. After all, the camp’s slogan was: “Dream It. Build It. Wreck It. Repeat.”

Last week, creative chaos filled a room at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center during a camp called “Engineering FUNdamentals.” Run by a group called Play-Well TEKnologies, the camp is a way to teach engineering principles to kids.

The SRAC played host to two LEGO camps last week, one in the morning for ages 5-7 and one in the afternoon for ages 8-12.

Throughout the week, kids got to build catapults, slingshots, conveyor belts and more. On Tuesday, they used battery packs and small motors to power machines to cross an imaginary canyon on a string.

“It’s really fun,” said Connor Laughlin, 11, of Clayton. “You learn stuff, and it won’t be boring, sometimes like in school.”

A.G. Osborne, who taught last week’s camp, said he encourages kids to be creative and use their imaginations. The camp has no textbooks; children learn everything by seeing and then doing.

Last Tuesday afternoon, about 20 kids sat in a circle around Osborne, who had made his own machine to cross the imaginary canyon. One child raised his hand and suggested a way to make the machine better. “Problem solve,” Osborne told him. “That’s the name of the game.”

The kids then rushed a table of LEGO pieces, taking pieces back to their place on the room’s floor, where their task was to build their own canyon-crossing device. “It’s showing them the basics and encouraging them to go crazy with it,” Osbourne said.

In the camp, the kids learn engineering principles, from transmissions to motors, from bridge design to gears. And they can make as big a mess as they want, as long as they clean it up afterward, Osbourne said.

“I love building,” said Paige Lee, 9, of Wilson’s Mills. “I spent my whole life doing it.” That’s why she loved the camp so much, she said.

Plus, she got to meet nice people. “It’s awesome,” Paige said. “There are great friends, new people and the camp leader, Mr. A.G., is really nice.”

All of the creations were temporary – at the end of camp each day, the LEGO pieces went back in the bins. Only the kids’ cameras recorded each LEGO project.

And the kids didn’t seem to mind when their creations broke apart. As children tested their canyon crossers, many came off the string, hitting the ground and breaking apart. The kids would laugh and pick up the pieces, rebuilding their machines from the fallen pieces or starting over from scratch.

The LEGO pieces included ones not normally seen in homes: tires, axles, gears and battery packs. For many kids, that alone made the camp worth it. “I love to have fun making new things,” said Quentin Brady, 12, of Selma.

The camp cost $150 for the week.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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