NEW PORT RICHEY — It starts with an intriguing idea. Throw in a design and a simplified physics lesson, and within an hour a 9-year-old has built a motorized flywheel car out of a box of Legos.
The youth engineering classes at the New Port Richey Recreation Center started two years ago and have grown in popularity. The classes are taught by Richard and Judy Williams, owners of Computer Explorers, a franchise that uses technology to educate kids.
"Classroom stuff can either be really boring or really fun, but this isn't your typical classroom," Richard Williams said. "Kids really enjoy hands-on stuff because they can see the concept we're talking about, making it easier for them to learn. We get into a lot of things that deal with math and science problem-solving. Once they get it, we let them go customize the things they've built and that's the part they really love."
The creations — including the motors — are built entirely with Lego pieces. Williams hopes the four-week classes can grow at the recreation center to the point that they can offer three different levels of course work for kids.
"We struggled in the beginning to find a center where this could work," Williams said. "Some of the other places we tried told us that if it wasn't sports related, kids aren't interested. Here, we seem to have settled in with a good crowd that appreciates that we offer something for a kid that isn't going to be the next Michael Jordan."
Parents in the community echoed that sentiment. Christine Sanders has two kids, Josh and Marissa, in the class and is relieved that the recreation center has something available to kids who lack an interest in athletics.
"My kids have no interest in doing sports whatsoever, so it's like what do I do with them?" Sanders said. "With this, they've learned things that interest them like Morse code, pulley systems, and all these things with motors. I like it because they're learning and they like it because they're doing something fun."
The most important thing to both the parents and the instructors is that the kids learn something while enjoying themselves. An indication that's working: Some students come from as far as Land O'Lakes to participate in the class, which draws about a dozen kids.
"It's really cool the way they do it because the lessons and designs change all the time," 12-year-old student David Gamero said. "My brother and I are Lego fanatics and we both like to build stuff. I want to be an engineer, and this is something that I can do that applies to that. We learn a lot of different things, and the class is flexible because they let us change the designs and do what we want."