FLATE High School Robotics Camp Serves as a Model for North Carolina Educator to Emulate

FLATE’s robotics camps have served as an effective Segway to stir students’ interest in Science,
Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. While the central focus of the camps are surely on middle and high school students, the Camps have also served as a best practice for many educators and educational institutions to replicate and follow. Over the years FLATE has been contacted by various STEM professionals and educators inquiring about our model. Earlier this summer FLATE was contacted by Constance Keen at Wake Technical Community College (WTCC) in North Carolina.

Keen, who is the instructor for electronics engineering technology in the Applied Engineering Technology division at WTCC, has been hosting a summer robotics camp for middle school students for the past two years, but was looking to expand the program to include a curriculum for a high school robotics camp. That’s when she stumbled upon the FLATE robotics camps, and was on site at FLATE in July. Here are some of Professor Keen’s observations and how she plans to implement the program at WakeTech.

I observed the last day of the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs high school robotics camp. Using a robotic arm built from four 3D printed pieces, three servo motors, and an Arduino Uno microcontroller board, students were introduced to mechanical design with Solidworks, electronic control through Arduino programming, and project management through a “funny money” budget by which they had to account for each screw, wire, and zip tie they used in their project. The robot arm, which was designed by a group of engineers at St. Petersburg College, is an elegantly simple solution to the problem of a robotics project that represents the variety of disciplines involved in robotics and is also interesting, challenging, and doable for high school students in a five day camp.

Each student had a robot arm to build and program, but worked in groups of two

to build two arms. The basic challenge was to have the arm pick up and move a ping pong ball from one spot to another, but after students conquered that, they had the challenge of passing the ball from one arm to another, which added a whole new level of design in getting two controllers coordinating operations. In addition to the robot arm project, the students toured a 3D printing company (EMS) and learned about entrepreneurship.

I was impressed by the quality of the activities and teaching in the camp. I also was impressed by the level of industry and community support, as evidenced by the sponsor logos on the camp T-shirts and by Mr. Allan Dyer, high school robotics camp teacher’s, listing of tours, speakers, and support work provided to the camp through the years. Thank you to Alan Dyer for graciously sharing his time and experience in the camps with me. Thank you to the FLATE staff for the newsletter that I have been reading for the past year that prompted my visit, and for their kind response to my request. I am returning to North Carolina eager to implement ideas I saw in action here. 

For more information on the FLATE robotics camps contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE at barger@fl-ate.org, or visit www.madeinflorida.org and www.fl-ate.org.