By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Parents scrambling to find summer activities for their kids are in luck, especially if their children are fans of R2-D2 or WALL-E.
RoboFun, an educational organization that teaches robot building, video game design and stop motion animation, is headed to the Upper West Side.
RoboFun will open June 10 at 721 Amsterdam Ave. near West 95th Street, in space formerly occupied by the Mandell School.
The new building has more classrooms than RoboFun's previous space on East 23rd between Madison and Park avenues, which means seats are still available in its summer programs, said John Raymond Barker, who teaches classes and coordinates birthday parties for RoboFun.
RoboFun also offers after-school programs and activities during school holidays.
Classes are aimed at kids ages six to 12 years old. Students use computer programs to design simple, battery-powered robots made out of Legos. Some of the droids move on wheels, others can perform simple tasks such as putting a ball into a basket.
"The first time a student sees their Lego move is kind of fun," Barker said.
Video game design is also a popular activity. Many students play video games at home, but few realize how much work goes into designing a visually compelling game that's fun to play, Barker said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if some of the video game designers of the future come from our classes," Barker said.
RoboFun's educational philosophy is rooted in the idea of fusing technology and art in a stimulating environment that values design principles, Barker said.
"Children aren't just learning information and regurgitating it, they're actually learning how to think and create and use their imaginations," Barker said.
"We're in this digital revolution where we've got more and more computers in every aspect of our lives. These children are learning something useful in that direction."
Check RoboFun's website for more information on summer camps, birthday parties and after-school programs.