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Christchurch kids design robots at Techweek'18

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Christchurch kids will be able to design and build their own robots out of LEGO as part of Techweek’18.

While not the Terminator-sized, laser-beam shooting variety, these robots will be around the size of a Tonka truck, with wheels.

Children can build either a remote-controlled or autonomous robotic vehicle to navigates an obstacle course, powered by a LEGO MINDSTORMS micro-computer.

Imagination Station Director Sam Butcher says the robotics workshops are a great way to encourage children to get interested in technology.

"This event is a problem-solving class using LEGO robots," Butcher says.

"Given kids are often quite tactile learners, it's helpful for them to witness first-hand the relationship between programming and physical problems being solved."

While Imagination Station offer a range of robotics classes throughout the year, for the Kids’ Robotics Challenges, they’ve brought in experts to help kids construct their robots.

Those experts are Christchurch father and son team Andrew and Avery Dean, internationally-

recognised MINDSTORMS experts who have recently returned from a trip to Europe displaying some of their robots.

The pair also wowed local crowds at last year’s Christchurch Brick Show with their LEGO-duelling robot, Lord Doolin, a talking and moving robot that can duel people using a laser tag gun.

"Avery and I are extremely passionate about robotics and animatronics," Mr Dean told ChristchurchNZ.

"For the past few years we’ve been jointly building interactive LEGO robots - me doing most of the physical building and Avery (who just turned 11) doing all of the character design and programming."

"Some of our engineering and programming challenges have been making autonomous marionettes, a Victorian "Lord" who challenges you to a duel using lasertag pistols, and a storytelling grandpa that "forgets" key parts of the story and needs your interactive help to make the story correct… or extremely silly," Mr Dean says.

The Kids’ Robotics Challenges is part of Techweek’18, running from the 19th to the 27th of May at various locations around Christchurch.

ChristchurchNZ chief executive Joanna Norris says Techweek highlights the strength and depth of the tech sector in our region, worth more than $2.4b to the local economy.

"Canterbury is home to the second largest tech sector in the country, employing over 15,000 people, exporting products with a combined value of over $1bn each year," Ms Norris says.

"This event is a great way to highlight our city’s investment in technology and innovation while raising awareness about the important role technology can play for future generations."

For Andy and Avery Dean, Techweek is an excellent way to introduce children to the fun and the possibilities of technology.

"I personally think that technology is critical for our children’s future," Mr Dean says.

"The world is ever increasingly automated and I would much rather our kids be the ones building, programming and repairing the robots rather than running from them, flailing their arms and screaming."

Other child-focused Techweek’18 activities include a Creative Coding Minecraft Exhibition where kids can join teams and use code to create structures and ShadowTech Day, where children buddy up with local tech experts to experience a day in their world and encourage them to pursue technology-focused education pathways.

Techweek is New Zealand’s annual festival of innovation, bringing together the best and brightest of our local tech sector to amplify New Zealand innovation that's good for the world.

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