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Mega hurts! Kids build, battle bots at Slope summer camp

Bot builders: BK Bots instructor Sean Spillane teaches Hamilton Akabueze, Damian Mavromatis, and Lydia Vassiliadi how to build battling bots.
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They’re doing the robot!

A Kensington engineer is teaching Park Slope whiz-kids how to build their own robots, then pit the droids against each other at a tech-savvy summer camp.

BK Bots is a five-day robotics workshop where youngsters learn how to construct, program, and control their own mechanical monsters with Lego Mindstorms kits — and pick up plenty of math and science skills along the way, said the program’s creator.

“It’s learning that’s actually made fun,” said Sean Spillane, a former high-school teacher has condensed his semester-long robotics classes into a crash-course, which he is hosting at Fifth Avenue math-tutoring school the Mathnasium every week through Sept. 4. “We don’t have to take away from the learning to make it fun — it’s possible to do both of them.”

The camp is open to students aged between 7 and 14, who pair up in teams of two to learn the nuts and bolts of building basic robots before advancing to create their own unique automatons, Spillane said. On the last day of the camp, the duos prepare their final bots for battle and let them loose in the arena.

Spillane, who has a degree in mechanical engineering from the City College of New York, founded BK Bots in 2012 after six years teaching math, science, and robotics at high schools in Flatbush and Midwood. He says he got fed up with the restrictions of the school curriculum and decided to create his own classroom where kids could learn in a fun, hands-on environment.

“I was feeling strangled and stifled,” said Spillane. “I wanted to be more creative and there was no option to do that.”

The teacher says the robotics lab cured his creative claustrophobia, and his rookie roboteers continue to inspire him with their own outside-the-bots inventions.

“They come up with their own thing,” he said. “It’s really cool to see the different perspectives on how to get these robots to do what they do.”

Spillane said he eventually hopes to create his own after-school technology academy where kids can pursue their passion for bot-building, computer-programming, and 3D printing all year long.

But he is in no hurry to leave BK Bots behind — he still has plenty to pick-up from his charges, he said.

“It’s kind of a cliche, but I learn as much from them as they learn from me,” said Spillane.

BK Bots at the Mathnasium [361 Fifth Ave. at Fifth Street in Park Slope, (718) 369–6284, www.bkbots.com]. Weekly from July 20–Sept. 4. $400 per person.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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