Robotics Camp Unravels a World of Possibilities for Students in Palm Beach County

FLATE’s robotics camps have served as a best practice/guideline for those looking to offer
STEM based robotics camps, or launch a STEM focused program for middle and high school students. Since the inception of the robotics camps in 2007, the initiative has not only grown in the number of offerings, but expanded to other regions across Florida. This year, in addition to six onsite camps in Hillsborough County, FLATE also supported robotics camp initiatives in Citrus, Columbia, Levy, Marion, Sarasota and Palm Beach counties.


The robotics camp at Palm Beach was the first of its kind and held at Palm Beach State College (PBSC). “It’s all about giving the most we can to our kids…they are the future and we have to give them the best chance we possibly can” said Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director for FLATE which served as the model for the camps at PBSC.  A total of 52 students attended four weeks of camp (two intro; two intermediate) which was part of PBSC’s summer youth camp—an initiative spearheaded by PBSC Foundation which provided scholarships for some campers in an attempt to attract them to STEM based careers.

The camp was lauded by hosts as well as campers. “We greatly appreciate the service FLATE is
providing to the region and look forward to producing even more extraordinary future events in collaboration with FLATE” said Dr. Jay Matteson, director of the Institute for Energy & Environmental Sustainability at PBSC. What has attributed to the success of FLATE’s camps has been the camp curriculum itself that was designed by FLATE. The PBSC camp implemented the curriculum and offered campers the unique opportunity to learn how to build and program the all new Lego® EV3 robots. The exercises were targeted in expand campers’ understanding of the everyday applications and integration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in high-tech operations as well as sharpen their teamwork skills. “The kids were fascinated with the possibilities of robotics and engineering. It was as if they tried a new flavor that they really enjoyed” said Joel Flores, program director for the camp.

During the intro camp students learned the basics of robotics that ranged from parts identification to programming the robot to using light and color sensors to complete the challenges.  “The campers didn’t want to stop and were astonished by how robots work” Flores said. In the intermediate camp students were introduced to more complex missions to create/design robots. Students also engaged in the “Green City Challenge” where they received points based on the number of successful missions they completed within a certain time frame. “Their creativity encouraged students to think, to ask questions and formulate answers” observed Flores.


To put what they were doing into a larger perspective, students learned about careers and educational opportunities in high-tech manufacturing. Students also watched videos showcasing manufacturing operations that expanded their knowledge about robots and programming. Post camp survey showed 99% would recommend the camp to others. “I have always loved science and the people at the camp made me love science even more said” James Jolicoeur, a 7th grade camper. Jolicoeur says the camp has inspired him to pursue a STEM related field in college.  Adan Azarte, another camper was appreciative of the opportunity provided by PBSC Foundation and stated the camp “changed what I wanted to do with my life and college major choice.”

Overall success of the camp was echoed by students. “What made me feel successful was the feeling I got when I built something and it worked” said Jolicoeur. Indeed it is students like Jolicoeur that has inspired PBSC to expand the program and look into the possibility of offering it regularly on Saturdays. Joel Flores hopes campers will continue to be engaged in STEM beyond their camp experience and that “this experience launches them forward to a world of possibilities.”

For more information about PBSC’s summer youth camps contact Dr. Jay Matteson and Joel Flores at mattesoj@palmbeachstate.edu and floresjg@palmbeachstate.edu respectively. For information on FLATE summer robotics camps and STEM outreach programs visit www.madeinflorida.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at 813.259.6578/barger@fl-ate.org and Desh Bagley, FLATE outreach manager at bagley@fl-ate.org