Robo Tech — 2013
By TRISHA PHELPS
Mt. Pleasant News
Through the Iowa State University Extension office, children are now being offered the opportunity to learn one particular subject area that hasn’t been offered much in the past — building and programming robots.
Kids in sixth through eighth grade in Des Moines, Henry, Lee and Louisa counties have the opportunity to strengthen their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills through ISU Extension and Outreach’s Stem academy 2013 RoboTech, where the students spend four days learning how to build, program and test a robot.
At the end of each academy day, the students present what they have learned in a showcase at the extension office from 4:30 to 5 p.m. The final showcase is on June 20.
According to Ali Jones, ISU Extension Office’s county youth coordinator, there was a lot of interest among the students for this program. “We had a lot of kids on the waiting list who want to be in it, so we will probably be doing something like this again in the future,” said Jones.
During the showcase, each student had the opportunity to show their robot and explain what they did, the challenges they faced and any succes they had.
“I’m really excited that I got my robot to move and talk,” said Nick Sandeen. “It even says ‘hello.’”
Some students found the academy to be a place where they could learn about a subject matter that they aren’t particularly skilled in.
“I’m not good with technology or computers,” said Carson Miller. “I really liked learning to program because it is something that I didn’t know before.”
The curriculum that was used for the academy, GearTech 21, was from the University of Nebraska, and the academy was funded by a STEM grant.
“We have been able to use some grant money to have the academy for the kids,” said Jones. “We are really appreciative of the opportunities we have though grants that offer camps like these.”
During the first showcase, many students enjoyed telling the audience the different functions their robot was programmed to perform, such as turning corners, spinning and talking.
Some of the challenges the students learned were adapting to robots not always doing what they thought they had programmed it to do, learning to program, working as a team and getting the wheels and body of the robot working together at the same time.