Robotics Camps Take Students on a STEM-ULTIMATE Path of Learning & Fun

Robots are ubiquitous and have fascinated the young and the old for many decades. From the early days of R2D2, to the Jetsons, Wall-E, to Rover, robots conjure a variety of images. In reality robots are not only fun, but serve a variety of purposes that yield impactful results. Robots are increasingly assuming bigger roles and with the integration of technology, robots are poised to revolutionize how we as humans conduct daily business. Manufacturing is one arena where robots are changing the workplace, however not everyone is on the same level playing field when it comes to understanding the role of robots in high-tech production environments, the technology involved and the technical mojo to use these tools.

To strike a connection, FLATE, the Florida-based National Science Foundation Regional Center of Excellence has devised an innovative program that showcases the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM and robotics in high-tech manufacturing. For a number of years FLATE’s robotics camps have served as a hook to spark middle and high school students’ interest in STEM, robotics and ultimately steer them into pursuing high-skilled, high-tech, high paying jobs in manufacturing. In a way these camps have served as a launch pad for inspiring the next generation of innovative thinkers.

This summer FLATE, in partnership with the NBT (Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs) Foundation and Hillsborough Community college, hosted four robotics and engineering camps for middle and high school students. The intro and intermediate camps were designed to teach students how to build and program LEGO® Mindstorms® EV3 Robots, and participate in team challenges that were geared to showcase how STEM is used in everyday high-tech industries. The focus of the high school engineering camp was on 3D modeling and CAD to design a functional robotic device using additive manufacturing techniques. What also set the high school camp apart from the intro and the intermediate camps is the emphasis on developing business acumen in manufacturing/marketing a product. Students brainstormed ideas to manufacture a tangible product. The goal was to come up with the design for a prototype robotic arm that they potentially could market to companies invested in space explorations and futuristic colonization plans in space.

In addition to the hands-on component of the camps, students also got to go on a tour of local manufacturing facilities to get a up-close and real-world view of manufacturing production processes. The field trip is often the highlight for the campers with a trip to Publix Dairy plant in Lakeland a highlight of their overall experience. A key benefit of the summer camps also lay in FLATE’s ongoing partnership with NBT, 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 showcasing the connection between the business side of manufacturing and how manufacturers can use expertise of STEM professionals to market product and ideas. Other longstanding community partners like the Manufacturing Alliance of Hillsborough County and the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation have served a key role in offering need-based scholarships for middle and high school campers. The scholarships are targeted to raise awareness and interest in STEM-based manufacturing educational and career pathways for students from low income families.

In addition to the camps held at Hillsborough Community College, regional camps modeled after the FLATE robotics camps were held across the state. The Institute for Human Machine Cognition has for a number of years hosted camps. This year 38 campers attended IHMC’s 2019 summer robotics camp in Ocala. Sponsors covered camp fees for eighteen student and three teachers. The three teacher-campers learned the basics of robotics programming while participating and observing. These teachers have now returned to school ready to start clubs or teams. They will be able to borrow LEGO Mindstorms robots from IHMC to help them get started.

Lake Sumter’s “Women in STEM” summer camps were held at Lake-Sumter State College’s main
campus and at the Leesburg campus for Lake county students. Thirteen girls attended the camp at
the main the campus and 17 attended the camp at the Leesburg campus. The camps offered girls,  grades 8th through 12th, the opportunity to explore alternative energy technologies. Campers completed several hands-on projects, including solar-powered cell phone chargers, wind turbines, fuel cell model cars, and solar powered ovens. They also went on a field trip to the Orlando Science Center and got the opportunity to learn about STEM related careers from NASA astronaut Capt. Winston Scott.

The Advanced Manufacturing and Production Technology Center at North Florida State College hosted a four day mechatronics camp. Working with a blue print and precision measuring tools,  students learned how to use a bench lathe to turn different diameters on round stock. They also learned how a lathe can be used to drill a hole in round stock and preformed that function to a specified depth. The final component for completion of their two projects in machining was to use a tap and die set to put threads into the holes created in their component parts.

FLATE would like to thank ALL regional educational and industry partners and sponsors for their role in helping promulgate the importance of STEM, its applications in high-tech manufacturing and its role in positioning the U.S. as a global leader in the manufacturing arena. For more information on FLATE’s summer camp programs and/or other STEM related programs for middle and high school students contact Dr. Marilyn Barger, Executive Director of FLATE at You can also visit FLATE’s camp webpage at, and visit the FLATE Wiki for additional STEM related award-winning resources at

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