Up, up, left, up, up Tristan Adams' face furrowed with concentration as he programmed the sequence into the little robotic mouse.
"You have to direct him where to go," the 10-year-old explained as the blue robot rolled through the maze. "You have to plan ahead."
Children packed the room at the Callaway County Public Library during Monday's STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) fair. They had the chance to try out a wide variety of toys designed to teach technology literacy, programming, robotics basics and more.
"It's a no-school day, so we thought we might have a crowd," children's librarian Jerilyn Hahn said. "We've already got about 37 people in here, and we just got started."
Hahn said with increasing presence of technology in our everyday lives and jobs, it's important for children to master the basics early on.
"These toys encourage the imagination, too," she said. "I was enjoying watching (one child) turn the Cubelets (modular robot parts) into a little creature scurrying across the table."
Many of the toys belong to the Daniel Boone Regional Library in Columbia. Hahn said patrons at the CCPL will soon be able to check out the tech like they would a book.
"That's the advantage to being part of a library system," she said.
Judging by the grins on children's faces as they explored the technology, the toys will prove popular once they're available to borrow.
Tavish Skelton, 12, explained how the Cubelets work together to form a robot. Each cube has a particular function — some have wheels, others light up, still others contain sensors.
"I can use a motion sensor so that when I put my hand over it, the robot moves forward," Skelton said. "I'm still trying to get it to roll right."
Hannah, 6, and Ben Snider, 8, used magnetized blocks to assemble an abstract, towering structure. Hannah threw her hands in the air once their creation was complete.
"Working together is fun," she said.
The activities were a hit with parents, too, many of whom got in on the action. Lyle Adams helped his daughter Isabella figure out how to use an iPad-based program that scans clay creations and turns them into video game characters.
"(The library) is helping (my kids) learn something they're definitely going to need," Adams said. "Technology is the future."