Sparking interest in robots
Jun 27, 2012 (The Free Lance-Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Click the full-screen icon to view photos larger ^
BY LINDLEY ESTES
The sixth- and seventh-grade students at the Stafford Academy of Technology robotics camp this week aren't reclusive computer nerds.
Conversation and laughter filled the computer lab at Stafford High School over electronic beeps and whirring of computers.
The STAT campers are focused on communication and cooperating to build robots.
"They need to learn to work together in this field," said Mary Southall, a camp instructor and English teacher at Brooke Point High School. "I think many times people feel that people in this field work in isolation. Even if they're working over the Internet, they need to learn how to communicate."
That's why two English teachers led the summer camp.
"We believe that technology is going to be important in all parts of education," said Jennifer Burdsal, also an English teacher at Brooke Point. "Showing that we are English teachers engaging in technology allows them to see the importance of cross-curricular programs like this."
The camp, which ends Thursday , introduced middle-schoolers to the basics of computer programming and robotics. The camp is part of the school division's program focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics career areas.
The campers used programming software and built robots but also did more creative activities such as screen printing T-shirts.
The camp culminated in a "Robot's Got Talent" contest. The campers judged each robot on criteria they established.
Burdsal said it's "an environment where they can be creative without too many restrictions."
This is the first year that sixth- and seventh-graders have participated in robotics camps in Stafford.
Burdsal said they hope the students become familiar with the technology and learn what opportunities are open to them in high school.
Ryan McGee, 12, a Rodney Thompson Middle School student, said he has enjoyed the camp.
"Actually, I was more interested in engineering and design to begin with," he said. "But I saw this and thought, 'Yeah, this would be neat.'"
Ryan and his team built a robot that shoots Legos.
Another team, including 10-year-old Nathan Hilty, built a dancing robot.
"It's really fun," Nathan said. "It's a great free-minded thing."
Noah Romero, 11, agrees. "It's educational in a fun way. Not one of those step-by-step things it's more creative."
Noah's team built a tank with lights and music that operates with a motor and pulley system.
Of the 21 students at the camp, only five were girls.
"I think there need to be more girls," said Sydney Johnson, 10. "Girls deserve to know this stuff."
Her team, including 10-year-old Morgan Arthur and 12-year-old Amanda Wyche, built a light-up dollhouse.
"This camp has really sparked an interest," Morgan said.
Amanda said hands-on learning is fun. "I like that it's interactive."
The other girls at the camp, Soumya Gottipati and Anne Briggs, both 12, made a dancing robot.
"I've made a lot of friends here," Soumya said. "Everybody is really friendly and everyone has the same interests."
Anne has attended similar camps outside Stafford since the fourth grade and said this was the first time she met a really friendly group of girls.
"It's usually just me," she said.
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976
___ (c)2012 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.) Visit The Free Lance-Star
(Fredericksburg, Va.) at www.fredericksburg.com/flshome Distributed by MCT
[ Back To TMCnet.com's Homepage ]