Editor’s note: Weelunk writer Stacey Sacco and her children enjoyed an afternoon at RNR Discovery and Learning Center, located at 436 National Road in Wheeling. The 3,800-square-foot center, owned by Chris and Kelley McCoy, is a fun, safe and educational resource venue that promotes learning through the power of play, using STEM and STEAM concepts.
The first thing we saw was lots and lots and lots of Legos! They have buckets of Legos just like we have at home, but way more. And they have giant blocks, too, that we can use to build creations we can actually play inside. It was so easy to find what we were looking for (not at all like our messy bins of Legos at home!), and we had lots of table and floor space to build. There were enough Legos for everyone to make their own creation, but it was super fun to work with all the other kids there to make something big and elaborate.
When we first walked in, there was a counter full of awesome Lego sets. There was the Hogwarts castle and vehicles as well as a giant Lego person. We were sold right there, but once we started walking around, we found even more fun things.
JUSTUS, AGE 8
They have ROBOTS! My mom said they have other things, too, but I’m not so sure about that. I controlled robots like I’ve never been able to before.
There are two kinds of robots. One is Dash and the other is Dot. Dash is four blue balls with a giant eye in the middle. Using a tablet, I could choose any commands, like moving forward or backward, making noise and even changing the color of his eye. Then I link all the actions together to create a whole series of movement that I can repeat and then change to make it even better. I love to watch him do just what I planned. I can also drive him like a remote control car. I had him flying up and down the play center, doing loops and talking to the other robots.
Dot is just the top eye part of Dash. While that robot doesn’t move, it learns from what I tell it to do. I controlled this with a tablet as well. Just like her bigger brother Dash, I can control her lights, sounds and actions. The robots all interact with each other. My friends and I can make them talk and joke, but then they take on a life of their own and continue to talk to each other and have fun even when we aren’t giving them commands.
I can’t wait to go back to play with the robots again. After just a little help learning what the pictures and codes mean, I could make the robot do just about anything I wanted. I think next time I’ll see if I can get Dash to dance.
ANELISE, AGE 6
Justus taught me how to drive a robot, which was super fun. I even found a way to make it say funny things like “no way!” and “I’m out of here!” The people who work there say they are going to start classes soon for kids my age to learn how to make the robots do anything we want them to. It would be so much fun to see what else they can do and learn more about them.
My favorite thing here though is the special room with games on the floor. It’s like a giant computer touch screen right on the floor that I play with my feet. The room is pretty dark so we can see exactly what we have to do to win the games.
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The RNR Discovery and Learning Center had two areas with BEAM interactive projector game systems. This means that two different games are always going on, and a few people can play each game. They are more fun with friends! My favorite game is soccer. It looks just like a soccer field with a goal at each end of the game. We kick the pretend ball and try to get it in the other person’s goal. I’m really good and beat my brother at this one!
I also like to help Iris play the number game. The game tells you what number to start with, and then we have to count up. Iris knows a lot of numbers, but I like to help to make sure she doesn’t make a mistake.
The games change every couple of minutes so we are always trying to figure out how to play a new game. Some are easy and fun. But I like the ones where I have to figure out how to win the best. Because I’m so fast, I can stop almost anyone from scoring goals, and I find objects faster than them too, even faster than my bigger brothers.
IRIS, AGE 4
I like all the things my brothers and sister like — the robots, the games on the floor and the Legos. But my favorite things are the giant Everblocks. I need two hands to hold each one, they are so big! And everyone else can make a house or a castle or a car for me. They like to make things for me, and I like to tell them how to play with everything. It works perfectly.
Justus and his friends made a house while we were there. It had a bed and a chair and table where I could have a tea party. The house was taller than my mom, and my brother found a way to make a door that I could really move to open and close. When I sat inside, no one could see me! It was my own personal castle with windows and big kids guarding the gates.
There were hundreds of blocks and a lot of space to make things that are so much bigger than anything we can make at home. The blocks were all different shapes, colors and sizes, and we could have spent hours building and changing it.
And while I’m a big kid, I snuck a look at a whole separate area for little kids. There were cars and trucks that carried blocks and even some giant blocks in pink and purple — my favorite colors. I played with those just a little bit, but there were buckets filled with blocks, animals, cars and people that I’ll have to explore when my sister isn’t with me. She likes the big kid toys so I played with those too.
We all agreed that we can’t wait to go back and we would love to meet our friends there to see what amazing creations we can build and what fun games we can play with the robots. See you there!
A MOM’S ‘THUMBS UP’
While my kids took over this post, I wanted to sneak in and give a parent’s approval of the RNR Discovery and Learning Center. My kids loved our afternoon there. They were active and interacting with other kids as well as adults. Plus, there was lots of sneaky learning going on while they used coding skills to control the robots and spatial thinking to create some of the most interesting Lego creations I’ve seen. My kids summed up their experience when, several days later, they were still asking “when are you taking us back there?”
• Justus, Anelise and Iris Sacco live in Martins Ferry with their parents and older brother. Justus is in second grade and loves Legos, Minecraft and knowing interesting facts about history. Anelise is in first grade, plays soccer and is obsessed with all things French. Iris enjoys being the spoiled baby of the family, My Little Pony and everything pink and sparkly. Their mom,Stacey Sacco, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work and previously worked for several social service agencies. She is currently the production editor for InWheeling Magazine and a blogger at OV Parent.