Lego clubs are popping up throughout the Valley — but with new, high-tech options, these clubs aren’t just child’s play anymore. The maker of the multicolored plastic blocks, which have been extremely popular with both children and adults since their inception in 1949, also produces robotics kits that are gaining fans among elementary school-age scientists around the world.
Many local libraries offer traditional Lego clubs, where children can explore their imaginations by creating structures with the connectable blocks. The Wee Play Community Project, for instance, hosts free weekly Lego workshops for children ages five and up at Beacon’s Howland Library (Wednesdays from 4-5:30 p.m. through April 30).
For those who are interested in more than just building blocks, Kingston’s Center for Creative Education runs a Lego robotics club at Stone Ridge’s High Meadow School. With adult guidance, children between the ages of six and nine tinker with the Lego WeDo and Mindstorms NXT engineering kits. These educational toys demonstrate how math and science can be incorporated into everyday life by teaching kids how to assemble a robot and program it to perform simple tasks.
The Hudson Valley First Lego League is also gaining in popularity. More than 80 local teams are registered in the league, which is part of a worldwide program that teaches science, technology, and problem-solving skills to children between the ages of six and 14. Led by an adult coach, teams of 10 children construct a robot using the Mindstorms kit; during competition, each team programs its robot to complete a series of preassigned tasks. Competitions were recently held in Ballston Spa, Troy, Poughkeepsie, and Elmsford. Regional winners are offered the chance to compete in the North American Open, which is held at LegoLand in California.
“What makes First Lego League different from most programs is that it combines many different aspects to get kids excited about science, technology, engineering, and math,” says John Houston, assistant director of the Hudson Valley FLL. “And it’s fun to do.”