Building robots and a better future in Anzac

Building robots and a better future in Anzac
Brother and sister Zain and Livia Siber with their project for a ‘Straws and Connectors’ building competition. The Li’L Lakers Centre holds the contest several times over the summer and everyone who participates wins a prize.

Space age technology is coming to a small northern Alberta community.

Anzac, 50 km south of Fort McMurray and a short distance from the vast oilsands is looking to the future by developing a robotics program for local youth. Executive director Cindy McIntosh said the program, starting this September, is an incredible community opportunity.

“We live in a rural area and there’s not a lot of opportunities  for kids to test the waters with art programs or activities,” McIntosh said. “With the robotics we wanted to bring something out here that would interest the kids and also provide an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

The Anzac Li’l Lakers Family Resource Centre promotes learning in preschoolers and educates families to improve their parenting abilities. Rather than using board games and wooden blocks to keep children occupied, McIntosh decided to introduce robotics. The children won’t build robots that fetch the newspaper or cook meals, but they will be learning the basics of building and programming a robot.

She said it will go a long way towards enhancing their mental development. And it’s fun.

“Using robot kits like Lego Mindstorm, kids increase their computer skills,” McIntosh said. “They use logic and reasoning to figure out how to write programs, so it may help them get into sciences or computer programming, which they can take further into their career.”

In a place like Anzac, population 700, where youth may not look further than the nearby oil extraction plant for employment, the program may have the potential to give birth to a whole new generation of engineers or even robotics designers. McIntosh said a recent Government of Alberta grant made it possible for the centre to expand its robotics program to include students at both of the local schools.

“We’re going to use the grants to partner with the Anzac School and Bill Woodard High School to provide robotics programs.”

“The new high school is looking at making robotics a credit course and this would be a great stepping stone for kids and it gives them a chance to find out if it interests them.”

When the kids begin working on their projects in the fall, McIntosh expects the robots to be a big hit.

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