Legos camp challenges Thompson campers

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Mon., Jul. 29, 2013
Brian Culmo spends his summer mornings answering Lego questions for young campers. Photos by D. Coffey.
Brian Culmo spends his summer mornings answering Lego questions for young campers. Photos by D. Coffey.

The floor of the Media Room at the Thompson Middle School was covered in kids and Legos on July 29. Brian Culmo, with Play Well Technologies, moved among the 18 children who were at the Lego camp sponsored by the town recreation department. The kids were working on building gear cars, and many of them were having difficulties with their designs.

One boy couldn't remove a piece he'd attached to his car. Another wondered if the lead he was using was the right one. Another couldn't find the correct part to make his gears work. The problems are part and parcel of a camp designed to give children opportunities to develop problem-solving skills. None of the children were flustered by the unique dilemmas each faced.

The cars had wildly different designs. Some looked like compact cars and others like tractors with large rear wheels. One was long and thin. Another had flames coming out the back. One looked like a double-barreled cannon on wheels. 

First-year camper Kyle was having trouble getting his gears to match up. He made several trips to the plastic containers filled with battery packs, gears, bushings, axles, motors and leads to search for the right part. “I just like building stuff,” the 10-year-old said.

Eight-year-old Kassidy has a lot of Lego sets at home. She started playing with them when she was 5, and now builds in her free time. “I take apart a set and rebuild it,” she said. “I don't focus on the same sets. Once I build it, I start a new set.”

Running into problems is good, according to Culmo. “This gives kids a chance to build and explore and try new things,” he said. “They get to experiment, figure things out, and learn why things do or don't work.” The process provides hands-on experience with pre-engineering skills, he said. The car project gave them a chance to work with gear meshing and gear ratios, making their cars fast and powerful.

Thompson Recreation Department Director Renee Waldron said the camp has been so successful that a six-week, after-school program is planned for the fall. “It's an ageless activity,” she said. “The kids are occupied for hours. They just love it.”

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