Boats and robots : Kids put creative skills to the test at spring break maker camp

On Tuesday, they built a robot.

On Wednesday, they built boats and later set them afloat at the Round Lake at Mill Race Park.

“It’s so important for young people to have access to things that help them create,” said Jadon Darnell, a kidscommons museum specialist. In downtown Columbus, kidscommons is an interactive hands-on children’s museum aimed at teaching children through fun interactive exhibits and activities.

Darnell is the mastermind behind the kidscommons Spring Break Maker Camp. Over the week-long spring break, 13 elementary-aged students from across Columbus participated in a variety of activities that involved making things.

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The camp is geared toward students ages 7 to 12 who want to use their minds to create. From 1 to 4 p.m. each day, the students were tasked with different activities to fuel their creative sides.

“I thought it was going to be cool because the front desk had a paper that explained all about (the camp),” 7-year-old Olivia Abon said. “Now I really, really, really, really, really like it.”

The students put their mechanical skills to the test Tuesday to build Scribble Bots — robots that can draw. Now, a large sheet of craft paper hangs in the front of a kidscommons classroom showcasing the robots’ artwork.

On Wednesday, the students took a field trip to the Bartholomew County Public Library where they watched 2-D designs become 3-D through the Digital Underground’s 3-D printer. They ended the day by building boats that they later sailed in Mill Race Park Round Lake.

Using only Styrofoam, Popsicle sticks and a motor the size of a two thumbnails, the kids worked in groups of four to put all the pieces together to create something that could move and stay afloat on water.

“This is going to be the base of the boat,” 10-year-old Kanav Mehta explained, pointing to the Styrofoam piece she decorated. “I’m putting my own touch on it.”

Darnell said he wants kids to see their own abilities to create and make things.

“I’ve been really pushing with them that it’s not all about 3-D printing or programming or coding,” Darnell said. “It’s also about woodworking, metalworking, jewelry making — all these different things you can do if you are a maker.”

Mehta said her favorite part of camp was building the robots. She said it was really difficult, but the outcome was fun.

“I’ve been to kidscommons camps before and I knew they were loads of fun so me and my mom looked for some,” Mehta said. “We found this camp with 3-D printing and different types of robots. I really like programming.”

Darnell said many students seek out activities such as the maker camp on their own — something he said is amazing to see when he thinks of how he would have been spending time on his own spring break.

“The goal was to make something that was interesting for them and fun that they could do on spring break,” Darnell said. “When they’re learning, they’re into it. I think it’s just as fun as going on vacation.”

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kidscommons is located in downtown Columbus at 309 Washington St. The three-story facility is full of hands-on learning opportunities and various exhibits, including a Childhood Garden, ExploraHouse and a 17-foot-tall climbing wall.

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