FLATE’s Summer Camps Ignite Students’ Passion for Robotics, STEM & Manufacturing

Every summer, FLATE hosts several robotics and engineering technology Camps at Hillsborough Community College’s (HCC) Brandon campus for middle and high students. Each camp lasts five days, and takes students on an in-depth exploration of some of the most recent technologies used in high-tech manufacturing environments. The summer camps are a challenging, but exciting way for students to explore and learn about robotics and STEM in a high-tech manufacturing context. “I wanted to know what it would be like to be in a robotics team, and that’s what got me interested in this camp” stated a camper in a pre-camp survey conducted by FLATE. “I liked that this camp showed us step-by-step how to program the robot and piece it together” stated another camper. Each camp presented students with hands-on activities that were geared to develop real-world skills in programming, and give them a hands-on exploration of STEM-related topics in robotics. Students also got to learn about 3D modeling and printing, and how all of these concepts are applied in everyday manufacturing operations.

This year FLATE offered three camps for middle and high school students. The introductory and intermediate camps had 24 campers each, and the high school camp had 20. During the five day camp, students programmed and built a LEGO® Mindstorms® EV3 Robot systems, participated in team challenges and learned how science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are used in today’s high-tech industries. Being in the camp “helped me learn more about robotics that I will probably continue exploring in middle school” noted a camper in a post camp survey.

Campers in the intro camp also had the opportunity to tour Publix Dairy Manufacturing facility in Lakeland, where they got to see first-hand robotics and automation in real-world settings, and also got to sample some ice cream! “The best part of the camp was the field trip to Publix where I got to learn about manufacturing” stated a camper in a post camp survey conducted by FLATE. The camp had a climactic ending when Charley Belcher from Good Day Tampa Bay conducted a live streaming of the intro camp on Friday. Several campers, Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE; Dr. Ginger Clark, Vice President of Workforce Training at HCC; and Lindsey Kimball, Director of Economic Development for Hillsborough County Florida were interviewed. Read the story and watch a brief video by clicking here

During the intermediate robotics camp, there were 24 campers. Twelve of the 24 campers were returning campers either from the introductory camp the week prior and/or from previous years at the FLATE intro camp. Over the five days, students built on their prior knowledge of robots that involved more advanced programming and construction of LEGO® Mindstorms® EV3 Robot systems, participated in team challenges, and gained more knowledge of STEM in today’s workforce. “I liked how we had to look at the course and figure out exactly what to do to go through it, and everything would work if we did it right” stated a camper in a post camp survey conducted by FLATE. The intermediate campers also got the opportunity to tour Pro-Tools, a high tech manufacturer, Tampa-based metal fabricator of high quality tools. “I wish the camp was more than one week long. I would also like to see camps like this offered during the school year” a camper noted.

FLATE’s high school engineering technology camp hosted 20 students, 11 girls and nine boys, and for the FIRST time since FLATE started offering robotics camps in 2007, there were more female students enrolled than males in the high school camp! “This is great news as it stands as a testament of FLATE’s impetus in devising multi-faceted programs targeted to getting girls and women engaged in STEM and manufacturing” said Janice Mukhia, project and outreach manager for FLATE. Mukhia who served as the camp director in coordinating the logistics for the camp ranging from every day camp set-up, to registrations, to interfacing with industry partners and parents is confident, over the years, the camps have served as a launch pad for the next generation of innovative thinkers to cultivate a passion for STEM and learn about the inroads between robotics and STEM and their applications in the world of high-tech manufacturing.

During the final week of camp, students toured Engineering and Manufacturing Services, the largest single source provider of 3D printing and 3D scanning solutions to customers across a wide range of industries including aerospace, automotive, military, consumer products and more. The challenges were “difficult, but fun” stated a camper. Others stated they enjoyed learning and creating things at the camp. Nearly 89% of high school campers also stated the field trip to EMS helped them make a connection between what they learned at the camp/camp activities and their real-world applications.

The focus of the Engineering Technology Camp was to teach students how to use 3D modeling and CAD to design a functional robotic device and to engage in 3D printing process using additive manufacturing techniques. The best part of the camp, for most students, was programming the Arduino, followed by learning about 3D printing and designing, and building the robotic arm.  Campers were able to keep the Arduino microprocessors and servo motors after camp ended. “It was interesting to visit a 3D printing firm an experience that is very interesting to see all the professionals and equipment in high-tech manufacturing” said a camper. The high schoolers also received some media attention midway through the camp when they were interviewed by Hillsborough County for a news story.
To read the story, click here. To watch the video on YouTube, click here.

Allan Dyer, the high school camp instructor who played a leading role in formulating the curriculum for FLATE, stated the camp once again served a critical role in connecting the dots between robotics, additive manufacturing and 3D printing. Another added benefit of the summer camps was FLATE’s partnership with Nuts, Bolts, and Thingamajigs, a nonprofit foundation which offers manufacturing camps and scholarships for students, as well as grants for STEM educators.  STEM educators use the grant to formulate curriculum that showcases the connection between the business aspect of manufacturing and how manufacturers can use expertise of STEM professionals to market lucrative products and ideas. The Manufacturing Alliance of Hillsborough County and the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation were also key partners for FLATE in offering need-based scholarships for middle and high school campers and in their outreach to the local press. The scholarships were targeted to raise awareness and interest in manufacturing/STEM, and create a pathway for students from low income families to follow related educational and career pathways in high-tech manufacturing. This year 14 campers received  scholarships(3 in the intro camp, 2 in the intermediate camp, and 9 in the high school camp) to attend the intro, middle and/or high school robotics camps. 

To gauge the impact of the robotics camps on students’ overall learning experience and assess their opinion of STEM/robotics and how they tie into manufacturing, FLATE conducted a pre and post survey of all campers. Outlined below are data highlights from the camps hosted onsite by FLATE at Hillsborough Community College in Brandon. One hundred percent of the students in the intro camp, approximately 89% in the intermediate camp, and 99% in the high school camp agreed and/or strongly agreed the robotics camps provided opportunities for teamwork and collaborations with others. Of the campers who responded to the survey, approximately 95% in the intro camp, 94% in the intermediate camp, and 100% in the high school camp agreed, or strongly agreed programming the robot helped them see how automated systems are programmed and controlled. One hundred percent of the students in the intro camp, 94% in the intermediate camp, and nearly 85% in the high school camp agreed, or strongly agreed the camp helped them better understand how science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are used in industry. One hundred percent of the students in the intro camp, nearly 94% in the intermediate camp, and approximately 95% in the high school camp agreed/strong agreed learning to program the robot by thinking logically will help while solving other problems in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects in school. One hundred percent of the campers in the intro, intermediate and high school camps also stated they would recommend the camp to a friend.

Parents’ response to the camps was also highly positive. Of the parents who responded to a survey conducted by FLATE, nearly 84% of the parents in the intro camp, 94% in the intermediate camp, and 100% in the high school camp agreed and/or strongly agreed that the camp helped their child understand the importance of STEM. Nearly 99.9% of the parents in the intro camp, 81% in the intermediate camp, and 99.9% agreed and/or strongly agreed the camp also helped students learn about college and career options in Florida’s advanced manufacturing industry. Of the parents who responded to the survey, over 91% of the parents whose child was enrolled in the intro camp, 99.9% in the intermediate and high school camps, agreed and/or strong agreed they would recommend the camp to others.

FLATE has compiled a photo montage of this year’s camps which is posted in the sidebar of this edition of the newsletter, and/or can be viewed online at https://goo.gl/photos/jMJCwZFVLm4CptMY6. FLATE would also like to thank ALL our regional, educational, and industry partners and sponsors for their role in helping promulgate the importance of STEM, its applications in high-tech manufacturing and the latter’s role in positioning the US as a global leader in the manufacturing arena. For more information on FLATE’s summer camps, please contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE, at barger@fl-ate.org. You can also visit FLATE’s camps webpage at fl-ate.org/projects/camps.html.

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