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Robotic Movements: Camp Teaches Science, Math Skills

The News and Tribune Tue Jun 21, 2011, 05:52 PM EDT


JEFFERSONVILLE — After calibrating hydraulic systems and writing programs, the students watched robotic arms perform tasks to see if any adjustments were needed.

They weren’t college juniors or seniors — these students just finished the eighth grade.

Students from Southern Indiana area attending the Summer Robotics Camp sponsored by Amatrol in Jeffersonville, the Prosser School of Technology, Ivy Tech Community College and Purdue University. The camp gave students the opportunity to do what mechanical and software engineers might do on a daily basis.

Anthony Harper — instructor for the camp and laser engraving teacher at William W. Borden High School — said students participating in the camp were essentially taking an entry-level college engineering course.

“We don’t adapt the curriculum at all,” Harper said. “Some students catch on faster than others, but it’s all hands-on.”

Harper said students work at their own pace with machinery and lessons provided by Amatrol. He said their lessons focus on programming, assembly of the machines and creating circuits to make the machines work. Amatrol provides training for engineers in companies like Ford Motor Co. and others.

The camp costs students $40 for two weeks of instruction. It continues until Friday.

Sam Worth, a 14-year-old who is getting ready to start his high school years, said getting a chance to work with real machines instead of toys really drew him into the program.

“I just like the ability to work with and program robotics that aren’t homemade,” Worth said. “I’ve actually build robots with simple gear systems.”

He said though working with the machines is fun, he prefers to stay on the back end with programming. He said he’s had some experience with software that allows him to write his own programs before he attended the camp.

“I’m always afraid I’m going to break something, but on the computer, the worst I can do is create an error,” Worth said.

About 12 students attended the camp this year. Harper said he’s been the instructor for four years and loves seeing students work hard on putting together the projects.

“Once the kids get here the first day, they’re here up until the last day,” Harper said. “That’s the great thing about these kids, I don’t have to motivate them — they motivate themselves.”

He said many of the students he teaches in the camp push themselves to learn more. Students also work in collaboration with one other student to get everything in working order.

Worth said participating in the camp gave him a better idea of how he wants to model his high school career so he can plan his college path for software engineering.

He said instead of opting for electives that might allow him to relax a little, he plans on filling up on more math and science courses.

“It’s focused a lot on engineering, but I think it can do two things,” Harper said. “I think it can help them figure out if they want to be an engineer and what kind. I had one kid tell me he wants to be an electrical engineer and get a master’s in software.

“It can not only help them plan their college career, but their whole future.”

To see the whole article and photos please go to The News and Tribune Website

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