Jun 18, 2013
Twenty local middle schoolers got the chance to race, wrestle and fly robots they designed and created as part of Humboldt State University’s third annual Robot Camp, held this week on the HSU campus.
The 5-day camp included lessons in robotic technology led by mathematics professor Kenneth Owens and David Marshall, a computer science lecturer and information technology consultant in the College of Natural Resources and Sciences.
“Kids these days don’t have the opportunity to smash things and look inside,” says Marshall, who teaches “CS 309: Computers and Social Change,” a class that encourages students to consider their relationship to computers and technology. “This camp gives kids an opportunity to get in there and figure out how things work.”
In addition to lessons in robotics, students got hands-on experience building robots with Lego’s popular Mindstorm system.
Geared toward 9 to eighteen year olds, the system includes a kit with robot parts, programming software and a microcomputer that controls the bot. “The system allows them to create more sophisticated programs as they become more proficient,” Marshall says.
HSU students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers also volunteered throughout the week.
Lindsey Manning, a junior studying cellular/molecular biology and astrophysics, said it was interesting to watch teams navigate daily design challenges like the “slalom,” and an activity in which robots affixed with a pen had to draw a shape with specific dimensions. “The best teams were the ones that included someone who was creative and also someone who was more interested in programming,” Manning says.
Robot Camp is entirely volunteer run and made possible through donations from various Humboldt State colleges and departments. Marshall and Owens hope that community donations and grants will allow them to lengthen next year’s camp to 6 weeks and include options for 3rd through 12th graders.
Robot Camp is currently open to students entering sixth through eighth grades. Let the HSU Office of Extended Education know if you’re interested in next year’s Robot Camp by visiting humboldt.edu/extended.
For more information, visit humboldt.edu/robots.