By Shaun Ryan
The latest buzz at the link is coming from its newest class: “Ready, Set, Drones.”
All summer long, Ivan Ramirez, the instructor behind the link’s LEGO robotics and tennis classes, is offering kids instruction on coding and flying drones.
These STEAM-based classes are on Saturdays through July 22, and interested kids can attend as many sessions as they want. Any given class will be held if by the preceding Thursday at least six children indicate they will attend.
Students just starting out will learn the basics, including safety techniques, and work up to coding a flight path to make a delivery or conduct a search-and-rescue mission. There will also be drone races.
But these are not the remote-control drones many are familiar with. These classes teach coding skills, using the Scratch programming language. The Tello brand drones perform the tasks that participants program them to do.
In fact, it was this coding element that inspired Ramirez to offer the class.
Though these are “drop-in” classes for the summer, Ramirez plans to offer eight-week programs during the school year. Students will learn more about manipulating the drones and complete their course with a recreational drone piloting certificate from the FAA.
The summer classes are for students in grades four and up. Some third graders may participate, but they must be self-disciplined enough to take a lot of direction.
Meanwhile, kids wanting to sign up for Ramirez’s popular LEGO robotics summer camps will need to hurry. Two of the three sessions are full. Still open: the July 24-28 camp.
LEGO Robotics is a platform centered around building robots and other vehicles and programming them to move around and perform specific tasks. Participants develop skills such as spatial reasoning, problem-solving, creativity and critical thinking.
Ramirez, who is self-taught, actually started teaching LEGO robotics 13 years ago while living in his home country of Venezuela. The popularity of the class was immediately obvious. He started with 18 kids, but after word got around, enrollment rose to 554 in six months.
He later launched LEGO Robotics classes out of his garage once his family had relocated to Northeast Florida in 2016. Then, when the link opened in 2021, Ramirez began offering classes there at the invitation of the facility’s co-founder, Raghu Misra.
On Dec. 16, local kids will compete in the First LEGO League competition. There are different levels of participation for different age groups, with fourth and fifth graders at the most advanced. They will build and program their own robots, create banners, do a special project and, of course, run their robots through specific objectives.
In addition, Ramirez offers a special all-girls version of his robotics and drone classes, GEMS, which stands for Girls in Engineering, Math and Science.
To learn more about the classes and camps, go to thelink.zone/getactive or consult the link’s app.
The link, located at 425 Town Plaza Ave., is an award-winning smart building at the forefront of embracing technology for smart workspaces, event spaces and experiences.