Christopher Aring-Sharkovitz: 10-year-old robotics teacher

A close look at the mechanics and intricacies of Lego robotics. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) welcomed back 10-year-old Christopher Aring-Sharkovitz for his second summer of teaching Lego robotics. Along with high-school mathematics and technology teacher Ken DeBettencourt, Chris, a fifth-grader at the West Tisbury School, instructs students as young as five and as old as 14 at the high school’s summer robotics clinic.

Mr. DeBettencourt supervises the physical building of the machines, and then sends students off to a separate room where the young programmer helps breathe life into the automatons through Lego MindStorms sensors and computerized motors.

The lesson plans cover construction, programming using the robots’ infrared transmitters, and incorporating various sensors into their programs. Students’ robots are built and programmed to accomplish tasks like walking up and down hallways.

But this Lego engineer has built more sophisticated contraptions on his own time since opening his first building set when he was six. His favorite robot that he has built is one that imitates a human in almost every way possible: it walks like a human walks, moves like a human moves, and even shakes hands when told to do so. Walking robots take him about an hour to build – he usually builds freestyle – but he can hammer out a Lego truck inside of 30 minutes.

The son of Daniel Sharkovitz, chairman of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School English department and staff advisor to The High School View, Chris has no plans to stop teaching robotics. He looks forward to expanding his building and programming skills over the school year with computerized Lego sets.

The gifted youngster can’t say for sure what he wants to do when he gets older. “Engineering is certainly a possibility,” he conceded, though that may be a long time down the road.

For now, he’s just sticking to what he enjoys: erecting Lego castles, programming androids, and teaching others about the tools and tricks of his trade.