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Robots take center stage at Westmoreland Fair

| Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, 7:36 p.m.
Marilyn Forbes | For the Daily Courier
Stephen Kurek, 12, of Mt. Pleasant is busy getting the big robot he helped to build ready to demonstrate at the Westmoreland Fair.
Marilyn Forbes | For the Daily Courier
Lily Kurek, 10, of Mt. Pleasant explains to judge Jeff Schomer how she created her marshmallow catapult.

For the second year, youths who are members of the Westmoreland Robotics Club demonstrated their robots and mechanical displays at a judged presentation that was held this weekend at the Westmoreland Fair.

“This is a great event for these kids,” robotics competition judge Jeff Schomer of Greensburg said. “This is an outstanding opportunity for them to work with these robotics. This is where the future is headed.”

Participants, ages 8 through 18, brought creations called Junk Draw Robotics to the competition.

There were nine possible types of robotics that participants could build.

“They are given specific tasks that they are to complete using specific items,” Penn State Extension 4-H Youth Program Assistant Tina Danser of Latrobe said. “This program stimulates their minds while also getting them interested in engineering. Many of the kids involved in this program go on to seek engineering as a career.”

Sister and brother Lily, 10, and Stephen Kurek, 12, of Mt. Pleasant have been involved in the program for several years.

“We got drug into this but we ended up really enjoying it,” Stephen Kurek said. “It's fun to see what we can do.”

The competition featured several contests between the robotics and a demonstration by “The Big Tickler,” a large, intricate robot that was created by a team of youths that completed tasks such as climbing ladders.

Schomer was impressed by the time and creativity put into the entries. He views the interest in the program as a plus.

“These are all judged on design and problem solving,” Schomer said. “I asked them all about their design, any problems that occurred and how they then proceeded to solve them. I'm very impressed with what I have seen.”

Danser said Penn State Extension offered a Science Camp this year in which many of the same smaller robotics were created.

“It was a big hit,” Danser said. “It was filled and we had a waiting list. It's great to see all the interest that robotics is starting to create.”

There will be several robotic demonstrations conducted at the fair during the week and all of the robotics that were entered in the competition will be on display in the 4-H building.

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.

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