Robots Make Math, Science Fun

This summer the National Science Foundation, the Collin College Engineering Department and the Collin College Robotics Club joined forces to provide a three-day robotics camp for seventh-tenth grade students. The camp was sponsored in part by a National Science Foundation Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Talent Expansion Program (STEP) grant led by Dave Galley, Collin College Director of Engineering and co-Principle Investigator of the grant.

Campers built robots, and then programmed the robots to perform certain tasks, and ultimately put these robots to the test via competitions. The camp included a robot beauty contest, an introduction to MINDSTORMS programming and robot challenges such as the bucket ball launcher challenge and the carnival showdown.

According to Dr. Greg Sherman, Collin College physics professor and camp instructor, campers’ ages did not provide an advantage in competitions.

“I was really surprised that the younger kids tended to hold their own against the older kids. We had several contests throughout the camp, such as which team’s robot could accomplish a task the fastest or best, and I recall that in every case the winning team was not comprised of the oldest kids. Age was definitely not an advantage,” he said.

Age, however, is an important aspect of this unique camp. According to Dr. Sherman, the camp may help these young students consider a future education and career in the STEM fields.

“The kids that attend our camps are at the age when they begin thinking about what they want to do when they grow up. If we can give them positive experiences in math, science and engineering now, that experience could influence them to pursue a STEM career later in life. Our robotics camps are not only educational, they are also a total blast. The kids see that STEM fields are not only accessible, but are also engaging, rewarding and a whole lot of fun. It is never too early to start encouraging kids to consider STEM fields as a worthwhile pursuit, and this camp is a great way to do just that,” he said.

According to Galley, the robotics camp had a waiting list, but the students who were lucky enough to attend had so much fun that they said they would like to attend a future robotics camp that was longer than three days.

“We took a survey, and one of the questions was after attending this camp how interested are you in taking STEM classes at Collin College. Thirty seven out of 39 campers were interested in taking robotics and engineering classes at the college. That good news makes us feel that we achieved our goal,” Galley said.

For more information about robotics camps, contact Melody Snow at  972.377.1501  or email msnow@collin.edu.

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