Builders Unite

ST. MARYS — The cafeteria at St. Marys Intermediate School has been abuzz with activity as part of a recent club that could yield future engineers and architects.

Approximately 80 students have signed up to take part in the Lego Builders Academy. The club, which held its first meeting last week, gives students a chance to build items with Legos while learning at the same time.

Nancy Mauter spearheaded the drive to start the club at the intermediate school. Mauter’s son is interested in Legos, and she thought it would be a good idea to offer other children with similar interests the opportunity to join a club centered on Legos.

“We decided to talk to the school and see if there was something we could do,” Mauter said. “Then we talked to the St. Marys Community Foundation, and they had some funds and the PTO provided some funds and it’s been a bigger turnout than I expected.”

The large turnout prompted Mauter to break the club into two sessions. During each session, the students build a particular project and also run experiments based upon the creation. On Wednesday, the students learned about axles and wheels and built cars. Once the cars were built, the students raced them to determine if larger or smaller wheels made the cars travel faster down a ramp.

Each kit is designed for two or three students to work together to build the objective. The students take turns building until the project is completed.

“We give them a challenge,” Mauter said. “We are touching on a bit of physics, too. They will be doing a little bit of prediction to see if their hypothesis works out.”

The Legos also prove to be a useful teaching tool, Mauter noted.

“Not every child is a straight visual learner,” Mauter said. “So many kids like Legos and are interested in building and we are working on some simple machine types of things that will translate into a love of discovery.”

Mauter also is looking for volunteers to help out in the program to serve as mentors. The mentors, she noted, could show students they can achieve their careers goals without leaving the community.

Despite being in its infancy, the club is popular.

“They really like it,” Mauter said. “I was really afraid they would be done building in five minutes and we would be staring at each other. They really had fun with it and we ran out of time last week.”

The club ends in April. Mauter said while the ranks are full, she encouraged any student at the intermediate school who is interested in the club to ask their teacher about it.

“We might have to start a waiting list depending on how many kids keep coming,” Mauter said. “It doesn’t hurt to ask their teachers — we can at least start a waiting list and get them on it.”