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Students learning for the future at robotics camp

The robotics camp at Claude E. Garton has taught kids how to code and program.
Dallas Thompson (left), and Isla Caldbick learning from instructor Benoit LaVoie on how to get their robots through the maze. (Michael Charlebois,

THUNDER BAY - There may not be anything that proves the times are changing quite like sending your kids to coding and robotics camp.

But at Claude E. Garton., a set of young students have been learning all about it since June 26.

The camp, which includes students in grades one-to-five, is part of Lakehead Public Schools summer program.

According to Alicia Croft, this summer school program is a lot more riveting than regular classroom activities.

“I like the idea of the robotics because you have choice,” Alicia said. “They give you a maze and you have to program it with the iPad. Forward, backwards, right, left… I thought that was interesting.”

Instructors from the high school and university level were brought in to get students familiar with the programming.

One of the instructors included Benoit LaVoie, who recently graduated and said this was his very first dive into the world of robotics.

“I’ve always been interested in it, I always just thought it was so far above me.”

LaVoie, who is pursuing a degree in education, says that learning the basics of the coding and robotics world will be of big help to him in the future.

“In the modern world it’s definitely a necessity,” LaVoie said. “Look at the stuff we have in our classrooms today - iPads, whiteboards etc. It’s nothing like when I was in high school just six years ago.”

Along with the technology, LaVoie noticed the student mind is evolving as well.

“The other day we made a maze, and some of the kids had figured out to loop certain functions… I was going to teach them that later on, but they just did it.”

In the three weeks the camp has run, students have gone from learning programming, to using robots to knock down plastic cups with a ping-pong ball.

“We know new skills are necessary for future children in the employment sector,” said summer program principal Donica LeBlanc.

“All fields might be looking towards coding and electronics, so we want to make sure they’re prepared for that,” LeBlanc said. “Our I.T. committee is looking at how we can support coding in our schools.”

As for Alicia, she says the program was a good way of keeping her occupied. “If it could be advantageous for me in my later life, that helps. If not, it’s still fun.”