The trend among many schools and organizations of starting robotics programs to encourage STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning has now extended to a Jefferson City business.
LabSpace Robotics opened at the beginning of January in a permanent space in Capital Mall. It now offers robotics classes for children in second through seventh grade.
"It has become more and more popular," said Annette Alberts, LabSpace Robotics owner. "What I found with my own children is, as they started to work on the programming, they started to notice the things that are used in everyday life."
Robotics classes teach children engineering and building techniques involving gears, pulleys, light sensors and more - everything they need to make their own robots work.
Alberts started the business so she could extend the opportunity to more children.
"About nine years ago, I started mentoring robotics for 4-H because I had children who were really interested in that, and they continued on to become a competitive team," Alberts said.
Some of those children, now in high school, are still participating in more advanced robotics programs and are mentoring younger children, she said.
"We mentored, and we loved doing it so much. But it was a problem because we were having to take two vans' worth of equipment wherever we went, so we decided we needed a place where we could do it and not have to haul the equipment around all the time," Alberts said.
LabSpace Robotics offers opportunities for children to try robotics before they decide to join a team or for children without a team available to learn about engineering.
"We can have classes offered at various levels so the kids who are very interested can get a good foundation but also get to other challenges that are a little more complicated," Alberts said. "I think a lot of parents use this as a way to say, "Are we really interested in doing this?' before they make a big investment in the equipment."
LabSpace Robotics already has hosted a variety of events at the mall, including tower-building challenges and Lego free-builds. It will host a robot parade at 1 p.m. March 19.
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