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No Rosey Or WALL-E, But Plenty Of Other Robots At This Summer Camp

Robots and 3D printers aren’t just for mad scientists and professional engineers, they’re also for kids.

About 20 Duval middle school students attended their last day of robotics camp at Frank H. Peterson magnet high school on Friday.

Ten-year-old Ethan Lacey was one of those students. He demonstrated a robot he programmed to respond to blue-colored tape he put on the ground. When the robot reached the tape, it turned around.

The robot looks kind of like a remote-control car. It’s personalized with two little paper flags hanging on each side, displaying the machine’s name, “Rodney the Robot.”

The flags are designed by Ethan’s teammate, 13-year-old Javon Williams, who also programmed the robot to play the theme from “Jurassic Park.”

Javon says it’s his first time building a robot, but he caught on quick.

“I had to touch every single sensor [be]cause I was really interested like, What does this do? What does that do?” Javon said.

Frank H. Peterson’s assistant principal Jessica Parrish put the camp together.

“When you get them in young, it gives them that spark, that idea that carries with them then through high school and into college,” Parrish said. “And then they’ll be more apt to choose these career paths.”

School board member Connie Hall dropped in to check out the students’ work. She says Duval needs other programs like these.

“They’re problem solving, they’re thinking,” Hall said. “We have to look at ways to expand this so that it’s not the best kept secret.”

Many of the kids will continue on to a new after-school robotics club this fall. Ethan’s still weighing his options

“[A career in robotics] is one of the things I want to do,” Ethan said “But the other thing is, I want to be a zookeeper when I grow up.”

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.