A-mazing Robotics

It was a futuristic morning at Hi-Ed Friday.

Robotics camp at the Warren-Forest Higher Education Council (Hi-Ed) culminated with pre-programmed and Bluetooth-connected robots on wheels zipping through a wooden maze. The 16 campers who participated worked in teams of two to build and program the Lego robots, according to John Lasher, School to Work Coordinator for Hi-Ed.

Participants were “really engaged,” said Eric Shotts, a technology education teacher at Eisenhower, who led the camp. “They were very enthusiastic.”

“The camp was open to all sixth through eighth graders in the Warren County School district,” Lasher explained. “Invitations and registration forms were sent to parents earlier this year.”

Most of the students were from Warren and Eisenhower attendance areas.

Campers had fun Monday through Friday morning, and learned skills about robotics through trouble-shooting and trial and error, running their robots through the maze and other activities

The students also learned about careers in the field.

“Robotics is a fun way to involve students in technology, combining hands-on skills (building the robots) and computer skills (programming the robots to perform tasks),” Lasher explained. “The value of this type of work was highlighted by a field trip to Betts Industries this week where the campers saw robots used in a manufacturing setting performing machining and welding.”

“More and more careers will involve the use of robots in manufacturing and elsewhere,” Lasher said.

Shotts said Betts has a robotic welder, so the campers could see first hand how robotics can transfer from fun to a career in manufacturing engineering, automation and other fields.

But, fun was name of the game for the students Friday.

“For the campers, there is the fun of building things, and of course the competition. In addition to the ‘race through the maze’ there are impromptu ‘drag races’ in the hall and other informal competitions throughout the week. It is stealth learning – disguised as fun,” Lasher said.

Shotts hopes more students will take advantage of the Hi-Ed offerings, saying he appreciates the efforts of the Hi-Ed board, Lasher and director Joan Stitzinger in providing pertinent opportunities for students, adding that this age – grades six through eight – is a good time to begin career exploration.

Also at Hi-Ed this past week was “Girls ONLY’ camp in which girls spent each morning at the Career Center doing machining, welding and building trades type work, mostly non-traditional career investigation. They toured a bakery and Allegheny Outfitters and had a leadership activity with Phyllis Wright, a former Cooperative Extension Agent. “Code Warriors Camp” also was held each afternoon. A computer technology adjunct instructor affiliated with JCC took the students through a series of sessions, teaching them the basics of writing computer code.

Next week Hi-Ed will host “Space Camp.”

“We do three days of mission prep then travel to the Challenger Learning Center in Olean, N.Y., to fly the mission to Comet Halley on Thursday,” Lasher shared. On June 27 there will be a press conference to de-brief and report on the mission. Parents will be invited to attend the press conference.