Students Learn to Build Robots in West Des Moines

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa - Students are spending the week at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School learning how to build their own bots.

It's a tech camp from Youth Tech, Inc., who is also hosting a video game design camp in the afternoons at the school. Organizers say computer science skills are becoming second-nature for the next generation.

"Robotics, and just the whole, you know, computer field, it's growing like crazy," said Dillon Suhr, a camp instructor. "Way different than when I was a kid. Kids have a chance to get involved in this stuff at a young age - it's amazing. It's an opportunity I know a lot of people my age wish that we had."

These kids started their week by simply building their robot through the Lego Mindstorm robotics kit. These robots sync up to a computer, where the kids can program commands for their creation. Throughout the week, they've been given different challenges to overcome with their robot, including guiding them through obstacle courses, and earning or losing points depending on how many obstacles their robot can dodge.

The age range in this camp varies, but one student on the older end, Gage Geneser, an 8th grader, says he's blown away by some of the younger campers who seem to naturally just "get it."

"Well, I was really surprised, because, like, when I had a problem, one of them would come up and show me how to do it," he said. "I'm like, 'Whoa!' I'm used to my sister - me solving her problems, and when one of them helps me solve a problem, it's weird."

The kids will round out the week Friday with a "battle of the robots." They'll customize their robots with codes and settings in an attempt to knock over their opponent's machine.

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