Eric Tibiletti and Lisa Nguyen clicked, clacked and connected white, silver and black Lego blocks together until they came to life.
"I wanted to learn more about robotics," said Eric, 14, incoming freshman at St. Joseph High School. "This was the chance to start something new."
The two students were among nine others Monday learning about science, technology, engineering and math at the University of Houston-Victoria's Summer Robotics Camp.
"The block piece we added was just for testing," Lisa, 17, said.
The pair added a multicolored block for the white and red arms of the robot to carry.
A refresher course in robotics is the reason why Lisa, an incoming senior at Palacios High School decided to return to camp.
The students customized the basic kit design to incorporate an ultra sonic sensor and a color sensor.
An ultrasonic sensor allows the robot to see what is in front of it, while the color sensor that was mounted downward detects color, Lisa said.
The Lego Mindstorms Core Set, containing about 200 pieces, allowed students to learn about the basics of building robots on their first day of camp.
The program has 12 seats available for students ranging from incoming-freshman to outgoing seniors.
During the overnight four-day camp, teaching assistant Sree Kona, who is also a university student working toward her master's degree in computer information systems, was with the students every step of the way.
"I am staying in the dorms with the students," Kona, 30, said. "I make sure they have food every morning."
Campers will walk away with new one-on-one experiences, she said.
"This is a different kind of exposure. They have the chance to talk and work with a research assistant," Kona said. "They are learning things they don't get in schools."
Learning goes both ways for students and teaching assistants.
"This is a new experience for us, too," Kona said.
Instruction advanced during the week to adding different types of sensors and building more customized robots.
Two sessions were offered this summer because of an increase in student interest, said Alireza Tavakkoli, director of the digital gaming and simulation program and an associate professor of computer science.
The growth is encouraging.
"I have spent my professional life on this research," Tavakkoli said. "I care about the students in our region having access to these opportunities."