Robots Made at STEM Robotics Summer Camp
By Tori Jorgensen
West Jordan - Student-controlled robots meandered through an obstacle course in the back hallway of West Jordan Middle School on Aug. 7, as one of the final activities of Jordan School District’s first STEM Robotics Summer Camp.
The students broke into groups of two or three. Each group built a small robot, about the size of a shoebox, which they adjusted and updated daily. Scott Church, instructor at the STEM Robotics Summer Camp, explained how this was done.
“The robots start out in pieces, just like playing Legos as a kid. The students then have a manual and it shows them what the robot is able to be, and then they build it step-by-step,” he said. “They are able to customize it from there and see what different additional pieces they can add on.”
Zack Nelson, camp participant, and his group added a claw and suspension mechanisms to the original robot. With these new modifications came a new name. Nelson said they called their new robot HENRY (Hailstorm of Evil Nematic Robotic Yager) to distinguish it from the rest of the group.
Another group used a tank as the prototype for their robot. Liam Carbone said they accomplished the tank design by extending the body size of the robot and using treads instead of wheels. Carbone said these modifications made their robot superior to other robots in the camp.
“My robot works better on all ground. It can climb up a lot of things really easily,” he said. “It is not faster, but it works more efficiently and doesn’t have a turning problem like everyone else’s.”
Students at the camp first learned how to program their robots using the computer, but later were instructed on how to control their robots through Bluetooth on mobile devices, such as cell phones and iPads. Church said one of the most rewarding parts of the camp was seeing students use technology they have access to everyday to control their own creations.
Ian Hadlock said he was excited to build a robot at the camp because he believes that robots are the way of the future.
“I’d like a robot that I could have a conversation with or that I could play with. I’d want to play soccer with it,” he said. “I am hopefully going to make that robot soon.”
In addition to robot modification, other activities were offered at the camp. Students made boats out of foil and pennies, learned computer coding and performed other experiments.
Megan Ballard and her team won the impact challenge. The object of this event was for a golf ball to remain in a paper cup as it was dropped from the second story of the school. Students were given a load of miscellaneous supplies they could use to lessen the impact, thus enabling them to win the challenge. Ballard’s group was successful at the challenge.
“Both of my teammates made different things and it wasn’t working, so we put their ideas together,” she said. “One was a parachute and one of them put the cup upside down. The parachute made it slower, and putting the cup upside down made it so the golf ball wouldn’t fall out. It worked great.”
Barbara Gentry, science/STEM consultant for Jordan District who facilitated the camp, said she tried to make all the activities interactive and conducive to learning: even snacktime. The last day of the camp, participants used math to create their own ice cream.
“We [told] them the ratio for sugar to milk is one to eight and just said, ‘Here is the space you have make it happen.’ So they had to do the measuring and create the consistency they wanted using their own minds,” she said. “This is not a classroom of sleepy kids. These guys are very engaged. They learn to think and problem solve.”
Gentry said the program was a success and they are looking into expanding it in years to come.