'Robots for Kids' engages youth techies at DI Library camp
The community room at the Berkeley County Library on Daniel Island looked like a colorful, mechanical wonderland during the last week of July, as young campers taking part in a “Robots for Kids” program assembled and tested their own creations using Legos and electrical components.
The five day camp session, sponsored by the Lucy Boyle Memorial Fund, was taught and facilitated by Dr. Mitch Lichtenburg, a Mount Pleasant resident who has been instructing children about robotics and robots since 2000.
“The children took to it immediately and by midweek had workable solutions rolling about the floor of the conference room!” said Daniel Island resident John Gilsenan, who worked with others in the community to create the Lucy Boyle Memorial Fund (LBMF) in 2015, after the 13 year-old daughter of Daniel Island Library Branch Manager Tim Boyle passed away unexpectedly. Lucy was a proficient coder and game designer.
The recent robotics camp session was attended by 12 young tech enthusiasts, who spent the week “building and programing increasingly sophisticated Lego robots, using motors, touch sensors and light-sensitive modules to navigate mazes and carry loads,” said Tim Boyle. They worked in teams to code, assemble and test their robots.
Dr. Lichtenburg, known as “Dr. L” to his students, graduated from Swathmore College, and received his master’s degree from Harvard University and a doctorate from Carnegie-Mellon University. He retired in 1998 from his information technology responsibilities at Simon and Schuster and within two years had created “Robots for Kids,” a part-time business that allowed him to enjoy his first love - teaching. He’s taught homeschoolers, pupils from area independent schools, and offered summer camp classes and after school classes for the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department for over a decade.
“I thought that retirement meant just relaxing all the time,” said Lichtenburg. “But it turned out I was wrong. I was glad to get back to the classroom and teach a subject, robotics, that young people find so fascinating.”
In addition to the recent camp, the LBMF has also made possible the purchase of a collection of computer and STEM-related books at the Daniel Island Library, as well as other coding and STEM events for children across Berkeley County.
According to Gilsenan, Lucy was a “precocious wizard who wrote her own code and developed her own computer games and was engaged in all manner of technical pursuits throughout her life.”
“The LBMF is committed to cultivating this interest primarily in children between the ages of 8 and 16, though this is not a fixed age range,” he added. “If a child fits, the LBMF attempts to accommodate them.”
Contributions to the fund are welcome. To make a donation, visit https://www.gofundme.com/LBMemorialFund, or stop in at the Daniel Island Library.