Senior hosts afterschool robotics club

Published on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 by Brandy Kiger

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What do you get when you put a toothbrush, a pager motor and a watch battery together? 

If you’re Andrew Crafts, you’ll get a robot.  

Crafts, a senior at Blaine High, has always been passionate about robotics. He’s the president of the Tech Student Association and was the lead designer and driver for his robotics team, which won first place at the 2012 state competition and went to nationals.  

So, for his senior project it was only natural he would want to incorporate his love of the machines. Seeking a more 
community-oriented project, Craft partnered with the Northern Meadows 4-H Club to introduce middle and elementary school kids to robotics engineering. 

“Shannon Gobbato knew that I was looking for a senior project, he said. “So she asked me if I would want to do this, and I said yes.” Gobatto works with the Northern Meadows 4-H Club.

“There are robotics classes when you get to high school and some in middle school,” Craft said. “But, until then, you’ve got nothing.” 

He began his project by helping coordinate an “Eco-Bot Challenge” on October 9 and 16. The challenge – part of the 4-H National Youth Science Day – encourages teams to integrate math, physics and computer skills to design and build robots that will perform a real world task. Through that they learn how they can use technology to help protect and preserve the environment. 

The Eco-Bot Challenge project simulates an oil spill and asks students to think like engineers to come up with a solution for cleaning it up using a robot they build. Students are given three trials, a limited amount of time and a specific set of materials to build their eco-bot. “They learn the scientific method,” Gobbato said. “They have to write what worked, what didn’t and what they would do differently.”

Around 45 students turned out for the event with third through eighth graders participating. “They go through the design circle,” Craft said, outlining the four steps. “They identify the problem, create an idea or solution, build and test their prototypes and then improve and adapt to changing problems.” Out of the fourteen groups, an equal number of unique ideas and solutions for building a robot were spawned.

“It was fun,” Devyn Dickinson, eighth grader, said. “It makes you think outside the box to use different things that you normally wouldn’t think to use.” 

With the Eco-Bot Challenge a success, Craft is using the momentum to his advantage. “Junk drawer robotics” classes are next on the list, and began earlier this month. The classes, which are offered every other week, invite students to build robots using unexpected materials – junk drawer items like rubberbands and paper clips.

And when he’s done with that? Well, on to the next big thing of course. Craft has already arranged for the 4-H group to receive Legos robotics kits as part of their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) extension program. 

“I’m excited,” Craft said. “I hope to get kids really into this. It’s taken me places I never thought I’d go.” 

To request information or to RSVP, please contact Kristin Swinford, Science Project Coordinator at or 360/483-6576.