Alex Taylor went back to school this week geared up to appreciate her math and science classes even more than before, all thanks to a Robotics Summer Day Camp held Aug. 13-17, at Wiesbaden High School.
“I like to learn new things and robotics seemed like a really good program,” Taylor said on the last day of the camp. “I have a better understanding of science as it is right now and I’d say that’s great.”
Taylor was one of 31 students to participate in the camp, which taught participants how to build a robot and program it, said Frank Pendzich, instructor of engineering technology at Wiesbaden High School and the camp’s organizer.
He is also adviser to the school’s RoboWarriors team, which competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition each year.
Campers, who were in grades 7-9, also learned the beginning steps of the engineering design process, Pendzich said.
This was the camp’s second year, Pendzich said, and members of the RoboWarriors team acted as camp counselors. In addition, members of the Air Force 485th Intelligence Squadron volunteered, as well as parents.
Taylor, 13, said she was glad to learn not only how to build a robot, but how to program it as well.
Max Johnson, 12, said he enjoyed the camp because he got to build a robot and compete against other campers with it. “I’m interested in robots and computers,” he said, and he plans to learn more about robots in the future.
The camp culminated in a game on the last day called “Not in My Backyard,” where teams of two students each had to try and shove balls and robots from one side of a playing field to another, all while navigating seesaw bridges at mid-field, Pendzich said.
The game is based on the social observation that when people do not like something, they often try to move it into someone else’s back yard, Pendzich said.
In order to play the game, students had to program the robots to act autonomously for 30 seconds and then switch to remote control mode, Pendzich said.
At the end of the three-minute match, teams could receive points if they were successful in balancing their robot on a seesaw bridge, Pendzich said. Winning teams had the fewest balls in their yard.
The game was a scaled-down version of some of the games at the FIRST Robotics Competition, and the room was packed with campers and their parents during the event. Campers laughed, called out and sometimes shook their heads as they first watched the robots during autonomous mode and then controlled the robots from laptops.
Demi Colon-Rios, 12, said she liked being able to program the robot to make it do what she wanted.
She has always liked robots and electronics, Colon-Rios said, and she and her father built a robot together when they lived in Georgia. She hopes to work on them more in the future.
Matthew Taylor, 13, said he decided to participate in the camp because he thought it would be a challenge and he wanted to earn the Robotics Merit Badge for Boy Scouts. “It was great,” he said.
He particularly liked it because the camp organizers focused on what campers could do with the robots, and not what they could not do, Taylor said.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Hunter said he and four other volunteers from the 485th helped build robots, supervise students and make sure everyone was operating safely.
Hunter said he was interested in volunteering for the camp because computers and technology are a hobby for him, and he was happy to help the campers learn about those subjects.
“It helps students develop teamwork skills and learn how to overcome obstacles,” Hunter said. “It’s a good outlet for learning and applying new skills.”
By Wendy Brown, USAG Wiesbaden