Students and robots share summer camp

Area middle schoolers participate in engineering college’s RoboCamp

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M. Cometa

Area middle school students built robots during the first RoboCamp, a week-long day camp sponsored by the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, this summer. In addition to building and programming the robots, they were able to tour the different laboratory facilities within the college.

Robotics is a growing field with the technology being incorporated into industries as diverse as healthcare, manufacturing and education. For the middle school students who participated in RoboCamp, July 19-23, at RIT, this was a chance to learn about robots with an eye toward the future.

“This was awesome,” says Aden Seeley-Sookey, a sixth-grader from the Harley School in Rochester. He was one of 18 students at the week-long day camp, Advanced RoboCamp. “I like robots. My favorite part of the week was building and programming them.”

RoboCamp is an outgrowth of RoboWeekends, an activity-based outreach program sponsored by the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, says Ferat Sahin, associate professor of electrical and microelectronics engineering and director of the programs. All activities are hosted in engineering lab facilities.

“We had requests for more programs and developed the camp with two weeks of beginner RoboCamp and one week of advanced RoboCamp,” Sahin says. Most of the children who attended the beginner camps returned for the advanced session.

Students as young as 8 years old have participated, Sahin explained, but the average age for camp and weekend participants is 10–16 years. Students use Lego NXT Mindstorm kits and learn how to program the robots’ sensors and motors through different project assignments. They also tour different laboratories in the engineering college to give the participants a chance to observe the research and teaching activities in different engineering fields.

Ryan Bowen is the camp coordinator and has participated as an instructor for the weekend events for the past two years.

“The camp was a huge success and a great experience for the students,” says Bowen, an RIT computer engineering graduate who will begin a doctoral program in microsystems engineering at RIT in the fall. “I was truly impressed with the teams’ abilities to work together to produce creative and unique robot designs throughout the weeks.”