A Behind-The-Scenes Look at FLATE’s Robotics Camps

FLATE’s robotics camps are deemed highly popular. Campers are undoubtedly the stars of the show, but there is much more to the camps and many individuals who contribute to its success. In this edition of the camp, we take a look at some of the instructors, robotics camp assistants, and examine the role of our partners in making FLATE’s robotics camp a top-of-the-line offering.

We begin this “behind-the-scenes” look with our new camp director, Desh Bagley, who is also
FLATE’s outreach manager. Desh brought a fresh dimension by injecting her passion/knowledge for computers and robotics into this year’s camp/challenges. Bagley also developed a new format for the high school camp that was very well received by instructors, campers, and parents alike. “Coordinating the FLATE robotics camps is always a rewarding experience” said Bagley. “Seeing campers grasp new concepts and then apply those concepts to solve real-world problems is very satisfying for me.” 

Instructors, Ken Fiallos and Dr. Alessandro Anzalone, also augmented the overall camp experience. Fiallos wears many hats. He is the president of the Florida Robotics Alliance and
heads the Florida West Coast (FWC) BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology) initiative at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Brandon. As part of this partnership with FLATE, Ken served as the instructor and content developer for one of the high school camp challenge that was focused on learning how to use Arduino Uno Microprocessors and building digital systems. To help with teaching the curriculum, Fiallos also brought volunteers from IEEE. Dr. Alessandro Anzalone, program manager and instructor for the engineering technology program at HCC-Brandon was also another key player. Dr. Anzalone, trained Bagley on the 3D printer software, and trained Mercedes Heredia, 2013 camp assistant on the chemical bath for support removal. Anzalone also helped set-up the 3D printers, and gave a presentation to high school students highlighting the two year A.S. degree in engineering technology currently offered at HCC and 14 state and community colleges across Florida.

In addition to Fiallos and Anzalone, Elizabeth Heli and Allan Dyer have enjoyed a long-
standing relationship with FLATE as lead instructors. Dyer has been the instructor since the inception of the camps in 2006, while Heli has primarily served as the instructor for the All Girls robotics camp since 2010. “Technology affords teachers a more hands-off approach, and makes way for greater self-exploration and problem-based learning for students” says Dyer. Heli and Dyer both agree their engagement with the camp has given them a chance to exercise a more “advisory role” in guiding campers and sharpening their problem-solving skills.

Involving research students like Johann Villasmil brought fresh perspective to the table.
Vilasmil’s expertise working with NAO humanoid robots gave him an edge in developing curriculum and challenges for three NAO-related lessons for the high school robotics camp. Vilasmil, a Ph.D. student at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa, was also involved in FLATE’s robotics open house in May 2013 where he gave a demonstrations of the NAO robot to students and parents. Vilasmil’s ivolvement with the camp not only benefitted students, but expanded his own understanding of NAO robots and configuring algorithms and timelines.

Outside the camp curriculum, camp assistant, Mercedes Heredia were vital in keeping a tab on daily administrative tasks. Heredia worked closely with all instructors and helped campers work through daily challenges. Heredia who is currently pursuing an A.S. degree in engineering technology at HCC says working closely with the campers not only gave her a better understanding of robotics, but bolstered her own interest in the field.

In all of this, industry partners bear special mention. This year’s industry hosts: Southern Manufacturing Technologies (SMT), Chromalloy, LEDnovation played an integral role by hosting industry tours. Outside its involvement with the camp, SMT has participated in a number of industry tours, workshops, and hosted the FLATE Industrial Advisory Committee meeting. On the same token, Publix Supermarket has sponsored bottled water since the inception of the camp in 2007, and hosted student tours throughout the academic year. Other partners who contributed to overall camp success include Bay Area Manufacturers Association, SME Chapter 159, Technical Training Aids, Team Associates & HCC.

FLATE values support and contribution of all its partners and stakeholders. Local, regional
and state-wide businesses, industries and professional organizations are encouraged to take an active role in assisting FLATE in a variety of ways. To that end, FLATE has a compiled a list of resources and best practice guides for partners who wish to undertake outreach to students in their local/regional communities. You can access these resources at the Made in Florida website, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at barger@fl-ate.org