Students practice engineer skills with Lego robots - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Students practice engineer skills with Lego robots


Middle school students in Wausau took Lego building to the extreme at Northcentral Technical College.

"We're building a mindstorms Lego set," said Charlotte Gruetzmacher, as she continued building her Lego robot.

Lego Mindstorms is a series of robots that can respond to light, touch, color, and sound sensors through computer operation.

"There's a more advanced theme called Technic, which takes gears and motors and allows you to build mechanical devices, and it really prepares children for engineering," said Dominic Gruetzmacher, an I.T. faculty member at Northcentral Technical College. "What we're teaching now is Mindstorms, which is a level above that."

The I.T. professors at Northcentral Technical College are getting creative too, using an interative approach to teaching. The students watch the instructor build on monitors at their table, then follow the steps.

"These are gonna be the wheels right here, the red pieces. then they're gonna connect like, like this," said participant Chandler Zilisch, showing the different pieces of the robot.

"We're gonna build a little robot that stays centered, stays vertical," said Gruetzmacher. "It's like a two-wheeler, and you can nudge it, and it'll just recover and stand straight."

These cool projects get kids interested in engineering.

"Even at the high school level it's almost late to help students for their ideas of what they're career could be," said Gruetzmacher. "So at this sixth, seventh, eighth grade level, we're hoping that maybe we can inspire students into the technical trades, 'cause this is a viable career path. One of the things we're seeing is a severe shortage of I.T. professionals in the area. This is a way I think that we can fill the pipelines, so to speak."

"I think it's fun to work with people and to build something," said Charlotte Gruetzmacher.

After two hours of building and connecting cables, these students were excited to show off their finished projects.

"You're actively engaged, and I really like Legos from that perspective that it keeps kids' minds sharp," said Gruetzmacher. "And it's a lot of creativity in the process."

If you would like to learn more about the summer camps at Northcentral Technical College, visit


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