A group of grade school students are helping Union County 4-H break new ground after receiving a jump start from the La Grande Masonic Lodge.

The students are members of the Robo Pros, a Union County 4-H robotics club, now in its second year. The club, believed to be the first 4-H club of its kind in Union County, assembles and operates VEX IQ robots, all purchased for the Robo Pros by the La Grande Masonic Lodge.

The club is filled to near capacity and its members are successfully assembling robots they adeptly operate with remote control devices. This skill was evident Tuesday when the Robo Pros put on an exhibition at the 4-H Extension and Education Center for parents and friends. The students successfully got their robots to do tasks like smoothly picking up and depositing items.

Building the robots is a painstaking process that takes about eight hours, but the Robo Pros members are having the time of their lives and are learning a lot in the process, according to Joe Cox, the club’s adult leader. He said the grade schoolers do not seem to view it as an academic process.

“They are having too much fun to realize that it is educational,” he said.

Joseph Kratochvil, a fourth grader at Greenwood Elementary School, said his favorite thing about being a member of the Robo Pros is operating the robots with a remote control.

“Getting to drive them is the best part,” he said.

Eli Cox, a Central Elementary fifth grader, enjoys the hands-on nature of creating robots.

“I like to build stuff,” he said.

Kratochvil and Cox are two of the five members of the Robo Pros. They are joined by Spencer Hanna, a sixth grader at Grande Ronde Academy; Carter Stockhoff, a Greenwood fifth grader; and Mason Kimball, a fifth grader at Central.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer