OGDEN -- When Ivan Lopez was handed a box of Legos on Monday afternoon, he had no idea he would be building an interactive robot in one afternoon.
The 14-year-old Mound Fort Junior High School student smiled as he talked about all he had learned in the course of one afternoon and said he couldn't wait for the rest of the week.
He and about 20 other junior high school students are participating in a free summer camp called NUBOTS -- Northern Utah Summer Robotics Camp 2010.
The four-day camp is being taught through a partnership with Ogden School District, Weber State University and Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College.
One camp has been held this week and another will be next week, organized by OWATC recruitment specialist Andrew Brown and WSU's College of Applied Science and Technology recruiter Rainie Ingram.
"We were in a meeting together and left thinking that this was something we could do," Ingram said.
The two approached grant administrators from Ogden School District in hopes they could partner up, and the district jumped at the chance, Brown said. The program is being run through the district's Gear Up program, funded by a grant that promoteds getting junior high school students interested in college.
"It's a fun thing for kids to go to a summer camp, and since it's free, it's even better," Brown said.
The kids meet at their junior high schools, have lunch and then are bused to the OWATC campus for two days. They go to WSU for the other two days. The camp runs from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
They'll display their knowledge and their robots at 6 p.m. today in the Wildcat Theater on the Weber State campus. Robots have been programmed with wrestling moves and will hold a sumo wrestling demonstration.
"It's great, because these kids get the chance to spend time on two college campuses," Brown said. Both schools plan to tour the campus with students and show them the areas where the robotics information they are using can be used to start careers.
"Statistics show that the more time kids spend on college campuses, the bigger chance they have to go on to higher learning," Ingram said.
Ivan Lopez definitely has had his interest stirred. He has always planned to go to college but said his mind is really racing with the possibilities of robotics.
"It's a lot more interesting than I thought," he said. "I like to play with Legos, but this is better," because the students actually make the blocks work as a robot.
Ingram is thrilled with the variety of students who have signed up so far.
"We even have a couple of girls in there," she said with smile.
Patricia Perez, 13, wanted to try something new this summer, so she decided to sign up for the camp. The Mound Fort eighth-grader has liked what she's seen. She and her fellow campmates were impressed with the hands-on work they were doing.
"We actually get to try it out," Patricia said. She admitted she didn't know if she wanted to pursue a career in the robotics field, but said she always wanted to learn more about it.
Josh Parrish, 13, knows he wants to go into engineering and this is just one of many steps to get him there.
"I think it (engineering) helps the community. I mean, a robot could maybe mow your lawn sometime," he said with a big grin.
The students work in groups of two, and each group has an instructor from WSU, Ogden High, Ben Lomond High or OWATC to guide them. Engineering students from WSU also are helping with the camp.
"This really bridges the gap and gets students to make up their mind where they want to go and what they want to do," said WSU professor Jeremy Farner. "The kids have loved it because it's something they can relate to."
Most kids love Legos, and Farner is able to relate them to science, math and engineering.
"It takes something fun and makes it real for them," he said.
By tonight students will have built an advanced robot for the sumo wrestling match in WSU's union building. They want their families and friends to come watch what they have learned.
As students left their first day of camp Monday, they were clapping and running out with big smiles.
"This was awesome," one student shouted, while others commented that they couldn't wait to come back the next day.
"That's what I like to see -- to make them want to come back for more tomorrow," Farner said to the other instructors.
For information on signing up for next week's camp, call Brown at 801-627-8330 or Ingram at 801-626-7785.