Science Saturday “Rockets & Robots” Presentation Sparks Interest in Science

Earlier this year, we brought you a story about Science Saturdays—an outreach initiative spearheaded by Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) with offices in Ocala and Pensacola, FL. To recap, the Center‘s community outreach efforts focuses on making science more accessible to people of all ages. According to Dr. Ursula Schwuttke, development director for the Ocala educational outreach program says the Center‘s community outreach efforts focus on making science more accessible to people of all ages. The emphasis of the Science Saturday series, according to Schwuttke “is to provide hands-on learning experiences where youth interact directly with scientists, doing enjoyable and exciting activities that engage the mind.” In Ocala, from September to May, two free Saturday sessions are offered for Marion County students, grades 3-5.

To conclude the spring series of Science Saturdays, IHMC recently offered two sessions of the rockets
& robots at its facility in Ocala, FL. A total of 60 students attended the session, with 30 attendees in each of the two sessions.  Dr. Dave Atkinson, senior research scientist at IHMC in Ocala led the session which took place on a “Martian landscape”. Working in teams of five, attendees simulated a robot with the five functions of vision, control, mobility, left arm, and right arm. Schwuttke says these topics are important in terms of developing general knowledge and exposure to scientific topics. The exercises, during the rockets and robots presentation, were an extension of these objectives. In that, they showcased among other things difficulties in coordinating the functions a robot performs. Schwuttke hopes the rockets & robots presentation creates an excitement for science among students and exposes them to robots and their application in everyday life.

For students looking to engage in STEM/robotics based projects, Schwuttke points to a host of regional
opportunities. IHMC partnered with FLATE, the Florida regional center of excellence in manufacturing, for a second summer of robotics camps for middle and high school students this summer. The robotics camp fever has spread in the central Florida region with Workforce Connection (Marion, Levy and Citrus county) offering camps in Citrus and Levy counties, all based on the FLATE robotics camp curriculum. Robotics is a really good tool to get kids interested in STEM.

For more information on IHMC’s science series coming up later this fall visit www.ihmc.us, or email Dr. Ursula Schwuttke at uschwuttke@ihmc.us. For information on FLATE’s summer robotics camps visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org, and Desh Bagley, FLATE outreach and camp manager at bagley@fl-ate.org.