Although Carroll County schools have been closed for the past two weeks, some Century High School students spent their time off in class.
Members of the school's robotics club, which includes about 25 students, spent three days of the winter break working with engineers at Westminster-based Land Sea Air Autonomy to help prepare for upcoming robotics competitions.
Land Sea Air fabricates components for the aircraft and aerospace industries as well as defense contracting firms.
Students had the opportunity to work with Land Sea Air engineers from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, tour the Land Sea Air building (the former Knorr Brake building), and learn RobotC programming code.
Jean Marc Henriette, an LSA engineer, said the programming code taught to students over the 18-hour period is normally a semester-long college course.
"It's not a small feat to take on," he said. "I've been absolutely floored at how fast some of them are picking it up."
Students are participating in VEX Robotics competitions, which require them to build and program robots to perform a number of activities, including picking up and moving objects across an 8- by 8-foot arena.
The team's next competition takes place Jan. 11 and the state competition is scheduled in March at the Carroll County Agriculture Center.
Century junior AJ Johnson said the sessions have been very beneficial for him to learn a new programming language.
The only opportunities for students in Carroll to work with programming codes is through a robotics club or a course at the Career and Technology Center.
Although learning the code has been difficult at times, he said the "guidance has been very beneficial."
Henriette, who has been working with the school's robotics club during the past two to three months, organized the sessions for students to prepare them for upcoming competitions.
"Education, for me, has always been an important part of giving back," he said. "It's great to see them grow."
Buck Ferrin, a Century science teacher and robotics team coach, said the opportunity for students to work with Henriette and Land Sea Air engineers has been "incredibly helpful."
Ferrin, who has volunteered his time over the past four years to form and organize the only VEX robotics team at a Carroll County high school, said the opportunity exposed students to a possible career in engineering, not to mention playing with an 18- by 18-inch robot.
"I'm tickled pink with the number of kids who fit this optional activity into their winter break," he said.
Junior Grayson Miller said she decided to attend the classes because it would be a "better use of time" than just relaxing.
"It's something I'll be able to use for the rest of the year," she said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun