FARMINGTON — Both students and instructors were having fun designing and programming LEGO robots during the last week of classes for Kids Kollege hosted by San Juan College.

LEGO robotics was one of the 200 classes organized by the Community Learning Center to provide students an opportunity to explore areas of interest.

Community Learning Center director Liesl Dees said the program had 190 more enrollments this year, bringing the total number to 1,598. Dees attributed the increase to recently introduced classes.

"A few of our specialized classes, like the LEGO robotics and our summer energy camp, have done extremely well," Dees said. "Those have been our shining stars this summer."

The college's American Indian Science and Engineering Society taught the LEGO Mindstorms robotics course.

"It's doing great. The kids love it," said the society's adviser, Ashley Begaye. "It's got rave reviews. Even the instructors love teaching it."

During class on Thursday, the instructors led 14 9- to 11-year-old students through a programming sequence to deliver turn-by-turn instructions to their robots and to stop upon recognition of a ball using an ultrasonic sensor.

A course was set up on the floor of the computer lab for the robots to navigate.

Nine-year-old Lauren Jaqua was excited to join the class and to be in a room full of LEGO pieces.

"I have a whole city built in my room of LEGOs," Jaqua said. "I play with them a lot, I thought it would be fun to try it out."

Instead of writing code to dictate the robots' actions, the LEGO software uses color-coded icons -- each representing a movement -- that can be dragged and dropped into a sequence. An icon could be assigned to move the robot a certain number of feet, turn it at a specific angle or use a sensor to detect an object or wall and stop.

Ernest Laughter fiddles with his LEGO robot during Kids Kollege on Thursday at San Juan College in Farmington.
Ernest Laughter fiddles with his LEGO robot during Kids Kollege on Thursday at San Juan College in Farmington. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

"We use a lot of mathematical concepts like radius, circumference, basic algebra equations, geometry, degrees, rotations," said Sheryl Dee, the course's instructor. "Most of them know multiplication and division. They are picking it up very quickly."

While the students are learning advanced math, the instructors get experience teaching, Dees said.

"We're excited to give our regular credit students an opportunity to deepen their knowledge by interacting with other students," she said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.