Behind-the-Scenes Campers

FLATE’s robotics camps are a major undertaking during the summer. Planning for the camps starts early and requires staff
involvement at various levels to ensure smooth operation. FLATE’s camp assistants, for example, are key players who wear many hats and work tirelessly behind the scenes.

2015 marked the first year Kiosha Weaver and Winston Figaro worked as camp assistants. Kiosha who is a sophomore pursuing a liberal arts degree at Hillsborough Community College says she was interested in working at the camp “from the moment she stepped foot on campus.” Winston Figaro’s foray at the camp started when a friend encouraged him to apply for the position. He did not have experience working with younger students, but had prior experience working in a team as he was part of the electric car club at Brandon High School.
It was a learning experience for both Kiosha and Winston.  Winston even learned about sensors, and how to build the Arduino microprocessor. As camp assistants Winston and Kiosha helped campers troubleshoot as they worked through challenges, and helped camp instructors with everyday camp logistics. “I surprisingly had a lot of fun” said Winston, who said he had never worked with robots, nor programmed one, “but here I am learning how to build a robotic arm that will be part of the high school challenge.”

 The camp made quite an impression. For Kiosha the camp rekindled her love for science and her interest in robotics that she never
got to explore earlier. Her experience at the camp also altered her opinion about programming too. “Anyone can build something, but knowing how to build and program a robot is something everyone cannot do” said Kiosha. She plans to enroll in a manufacturing related course later this Fall which she hopes will help in her career pursuits as a lawyer. For Winston, the five-week experience fired his interest in Solidworks as it gave him the ability to create something new. It also taught him key problem-solving skills which he says will help him work with different personalities and overcome obstacles as he looks to join the army as a chaplain. He is also “seriously considering” adding an engineering technology and/or manufacturing related course to his fall schedule, and hopes to work in the camp again next year.

Laura Natalia Valdez Galindo was another staff member who added to campers’ knowledge base through her interest and education in robotics and engineering. Laura who is an electrical engineering student at Universidad Santo Tomás in Colombia joined FLATE as
part of an international summer exchange program with the University of South Florida. She served as a robotics camp instructor during the intermediate camp working with campers to trouble shoot any gridlock they encountered while solving challenges.

Working at the camp was an educational process for Laura as she was taken aback by how conversant middle school students were with programming and robotics in general. She was also amazed to see high-tech manufacturing processes during the industry tour of MiTek Corporation in Tampa, and got to tour the school of engineering at USF, as well as FLATE’s high tech engineering technology lab where she got to work on the 3D printer.  Her interaction with students also helped improve her English speaking skills. “Students are lucky to be part of this program” said Laura. Upon graduation she hopes to offer similar camps for students in Colombia so they too can learn about programming and applications of robotics technology.  

To learn more about FLATE’s robotics camps, or STEM related opportunities for students and educators visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org, or email Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org.