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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
JerMonea Hardy, 14, smiles as she tries to clear her hair from the medal she received Tuesday after graduating from the STARBASE 2.0 program at the Big Brothers Big Sisters office on Rudisill Boulevard.

Youths medal in robotics

Big Brothers Big Sisters teach high-tech skills

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Medals await distribution to graduates of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ STARBASE 2.0 program Tuesday.

– For the past 12 weeks, Marui James has spent one day a week learning about robotics and high-end computer software for engineering.

Without the STARBASE 2.0 program that Marui participated in as part of his involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the 15-year-old readily admits he wouldn’t have been as productive with his time after school.

“It gives you something to do after school instead of going home and doing nothing,” he said Tuesday at the program’s graduation.

The original STARBASE program – call it version 1.0 – was a national program with more than 20 years of history.

The local branch is housed at the 122nd Fighter Wing at Fort Wayne International Airport and is a 25-hour program that teaches students critical skills in science, technology, engineering and math.

The version of the program offered at Big Brother Big Sisters was a pilot program, but given the interest, it will be back.

“We’re going to go full throttle next year,” said Scott Liebhauser, director of the STARBASE in Indiana, which has been in Fort Wayne almost three years.

He said the program focuses on hands-on work to help the students best understand the concepts.

For the version offered at Big Brothers Big Sisters, the students learned how to program commands into a robot to make it do something as simple as move forward or as complicated as performing a figure eight around obstacles on the floor.

JerMonea Hardy, an eighth-grader in her second year with Big Brothers Big Sisters, said the robot programming was fun but fairly difficult.

“It was hard; … it took me a couple of tries,” she said.

Fellow classmate Gabe Gabriel had a bit of an advantage over his peers.

He had attended a summer camp where he’d done similar robot programming exercises.

“Overall, it was kind of easy,” the 12-year-old said of the robot work.

Gabe said he enjoyed the robot programming and building robots with the computer drafting software the most.

For 13-year-old Megan Fowler, the experience with robot programming was a little different from Gabe’s.

She had no previous experience with these activities and said she got her robot to move in a straight line, but not much else.

Even with the frustrations of the robot programming, Megan, along with several other children in the program, said it was well worth the time.

“It’s a great program,” Gabe said. “They teach you really well.”