Wichita State News

Robotics camp exposes engineering fun to middle school students

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Is engineering boring, or can it be hands-on fun? Can kids design, build and program a robot to complete a task and learn valuable concepts and skills while doing it? Do middle school students even think about engineering?

The answer to these questions and more is yes. Getting students to think about designing and building robots and then running their robots in a competition makes students aware of how engineering can be fun.

This summer, Whitman will offer a beginner and advanced LEGO Robotics camp.

The College of Engineering will host seven different camps.

Last year's Shocker MINDSTORMS Camp was held July 21-25, 2008, for students in grades 6-8. The camp was hosted by Wichita State's College of Engineering.

"To increase the number of high school students choosing engineering as a major, maintaining interest in science and technology is key," said Lawrence Whitman, director of engineering education for the College of Engineering and director of the camp.

The camp included designing and building robots to travel in a square; making robots that followed a line; and using gears to make the fastest robot.

WSU annually hosts a LEGO MINDSTORMS Robotics Challenge, and campers had the opportunity to compete on the same courses used at the Challenge.

Campers heard from a former WSU student who implements industrial robots at Spirit Aerosystems. Campers also went to a local factory to see robotic welders and automated guided vehicles.

Participants each received a name badge made from LEGO bricks and extra bricks were provided for the ‘camper o’ the day’ and the ‘happy camper’ award. These bricks were much sought after as students maintained good attitudes and documented their designs in their engineering notebooks.

Campers learned the engineering design process, learned how to use gears and sensors and how to program their robots to operate autonomously.

They learned that the word ‘autonomous’ means a self-directed robot with the ability to respond to the environment. An autonomous robot is different than a robot that is directed using a remote control.

To register or get more information about the summer camps, go to www.wichita.edu/engineeringcamps.

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