While many children are fascinated with the idea of robots, it's not often they actually get a chance to build their own. But at the newly opened C&A Robot Factory in Libertyville, kids in grades 5-8 not only make robots, but program them to make sounds, turn away from hazards and detect motion.
The Robot Factory has two classes. Younger students build models out of LEGOs, says owner Lidia Voelker. Once it's built, they install a motor and motion sensor, connecting the model to a computer where they'll program it.
"They can program it to open and close its mouth. They can program it with different speeds and sounds," Voelker says.
"It's really not as much about building as about testing and learning through building, especially for the older kids," she says. "They're actually programming, so most of their work is on the computer."
In the second, more complex class, kids build a robot with a variety of sensors they program. The programming is based on their own ideas and calculations.
"We have a sensor that is a touch sensor, so they can program it to stop at a touch or at a distance from something," Voelker explains. "They have to figure out the threshold (for sensing something). They have to do it on their own and then program the robots to do that. Or for turning, they have to figure out what degree of turning they want to use, and then calculate and translate that into the programming software."
While kids are messing around with LEGOs and building robots, they're also learning math, physics, engineering and science, Voelker says.
Kids can sign up for a class to learn about robotics, or they can stop in during open play times to just explore and create. During the day, the store is open for children 2 and older to play.
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.