YORK -- When most people think of Legos, little red, yellow and blue bricks come to mind. Legos bring back memories of stacking plastic blocks into towers, putting tiny Lego figures on top, or even putting together a Lego house.
But for a group of eight middle school students who meet once a month at the Clemson Extension Office in York, Legos mean something entirely different.
Those eight boys, all 10 - 14, are part of the Palmetto Robotics 4-H Club, the 4-H organization's newest group.
The club was founded earlier this year by Lela and Lyn Byrd, two York residents who, along with their son, Murray, have developed an interest in Legos, especially Lego robotics.
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"So far it's gone pretty well," said Lyn Byrd, Murray's father. "I grew up with Legos and passed them on to my son. He's always been interested in robotics. We saw this chance to get him into a club and it looked like a good opportunity."
Byrd said his son developed and interest in standard Legos at first, but that soon evolved to the more advanced building blocks.
"I've been working with robotics Legos for between two and four years. Working with a larger group is more fun though," Murray said.
Lego Mindstorm, or more recently, Lego NXT, as the robotics Lego set is called, is "a little brain encased in Legos," Byrd said.
NXT consists of a central computer, a small part of the Lego robot that controls its functions. There are sensors that give the robot the ability to feel and react to its environment, hear sound, detect light and color, and measure distances to other objects. It also has motors that allow it to move with precision in any direction.
What, specifically, the robot is able to do depends on the builders and how they use the Lego pieces, which are more advanced than the standard bricks.
Working with advanced ideas, is the interest that club members share.
"I've been playing with Legos my whole life, so it's cool to use them to make a robot that does stuff I want it to do," said Patrick Williams, a seventh-grade student at Sullivan Middle School.
Williams said a great perk of the club was being able to work with the advanced Lego robotic pieces provided by the Byrds.
"It's a great opportunity to play with stuff I don't have at home," he said.
As a long-term goal, Williams said he would love to build a robot that could pick up a pencil and write, or get him a drink out of the refrigerator, but for now he is just enjoying learning the basics.
All the boys are coming away from the club having learned many of the same lessons.
"Teamwork, logic, problem solving, communication- these are life skills," Byrd said. "It takes effort from everybody to have a successful project."
Byrd said working with these robots could lay the groundwork for careers in mechanical or electrical engineering, many programs that a school like Clemson could offer these boys.
Margie Sippel, who works in the 4-H office and assists with the group, is excited that 4-H could sponsor the boys.
"We had a robotics day camp once, but we are very pleased that the Byrds wanted to start this club," Sippel said.
The Palmetto Robotics 4-H Club is always looking for extra volunteer help and is hoping to expand to include new members. Contact Margie Sippel at the Clemson Extension Office at 120 N. Congress St., or at 803-684-9919.