Weather Forecast


Fun with LEGOs at DL summer robotics camp

QWERTY Robotics team members mentored the participants in Detroit Lakes’ first-ever LEGO Robotics Summer Camp, held this past Monday through Thursday at Detroit Lakes High School. DL NEWSPAPERS/Vicki Gerdes

This past week has been a busy one for Detroit Lakes’ QWERTY Robotics team, who spent this past Monday through Thursday mentoring a group of 24 area students in the first-ever LEGO Robotics Summer Camp to be held in Detroit Lakes.

Hosted by QWERTY Robotics and Minnesota State University Moorhead’s College for Kids, the event was an unqualified success, according to Debbie Janzen, advisor and mentor for the local robotics team.

“We started with (openings for) 20 kids, but there was such an overwhelming response that we increased it to 24, and I still had to turn kids away,” Janzen said.

“I think if we held another camp next week it would be full too.”

The camp was open to all area students entering grades 5-8 in the fall.

“It’s for kids who want to learn and are excited about programming, or LEGOs, or both,” Janzen said.

The students paired up to build and program the small robots, using LEGOs for some of the functions.

“They worked in teams of two to build a robot and program it to perform a variety of tasks,” Janzen said.

The QWERTY team members provided teaching assistance to camp instructor Sarah Schultz, who runs the College for Kids program at MSUM, as well as acting as mentors for the kids throughout the four-day camp.

Schultz noted that MSUM’s College for Kids offers two LEGO Robotics sessions each summer, and they typically fill up quickly.

“There’s always a waiting list,” she added.

“Debbie approached us about bringing our LEGO Robotics course out here (to Detroit Lakes),” Schultz said. “This is a pilot (program) for us… so far, so good.”

Students were in session each day from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Detroit Lakes High School Media Center, with the final day ending in an open house where the students invited their parents and siblings to come view what they had accomplished.

“They’re doing great,” Schultz said on Wednesday.

“The kids are having a great time, and they’re working well together. This is a great group, and the volunteers have been fantastic.”

“The kids are having a blast doing this,” Janzen agreed, “and our QWERTY team members are having fun too.

“It’s a good experience for them to mentor the kids and teach them the things they’ve learned.”

In addition to learning about programming language and being exposed to working with robots, the kids get to have “something cool to show their parents,” Schultz said. “They can make the tasks as complicated or easy as they want to.”

Janzen added that many of the kids participating in this summer camp will be among those chosen to form Detroit Lakes’ first-ever LEGO Robotics team.

“I’ve been working with Kent and Jenny Heimark, two local home-school parents, to get the funding and supplies needed to start a team,” Janzen said.

“We’ve received a donation of 10 laptops from Minnesota Computers for Schools, so the kids will be able to do programming and write research reports for upcoming competitions,” she added.

The team, which has not yet been finalized, will include between 8-10 kids from the area.

“We’ve already got more applications than we have slots on the team,” Janzen said.

For more information, contact Debbie Janzen at 701-388-9697, or e-mail her at

Follow reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454