APS to host robotics summer camp

ALPENA – Alpena Public Schools recently received a Michigan Science Technology Engineering Mathematics Partnership grant through Michigan Works for a robotics summer camp and a fall robotics tournament for the region. The camp will allow teams of fourth and fifth grade students from Alpena, Hillman, Alcona, Posen, Atlanta and Rogers City to solve robot challenges through hands-on learning, using the VEX IQ system.

The camp will be taught by the Alpena High School FIRST Robotics team under the leadership of Melissa Doubek from July 28-Aug. 1, from 9-11:30 a.m. each day. The registration deadline is June 11, and teams must register by that date or the grant funding will have to be returned and students will miss out on this fun learning opportunity. High school students will be teaching the fourth- and fifth-graders about robots, what goes into making them and other aspects of robotics to get them familiar with the kits and prepare them for the fall competition.

“This is part of the teams involvement in community outreach, and is just a great opportunity for students,” APS parent involvement coordinator Lee Fitzpatrick said. “The camp is free. Students don’t need a team to attend the camp, but cannot participate in the challenge in October unless they have a team and mentor.”

The VEX IQ Challenge tournament fosters student development of the teamwork, critical thinking, project management and communication skills required to prepare them to become the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.

Teams of four or five students who will be entering the fourth and fifth grade during the 2014-15 school year are eligible. Each team will need a parent/teacher responsible for mentoring the team, and no robotics experience is required. The mentor will participate only on Friday of camp week. For the competition, VEX IQ kits will be given to each school team participating to design and build a robot capable of competing in the Highrise Challenge Tournament, which will be held in October at Alpena High School. Each kit is valued at $380.

“The grant covers the cost of the kits and camp, and when the students attend camp, the teams get a coupon to cover the entry for the competition,” Fitzpatrick said. “The high school team had an awesome experience and great success at their competition, and will be working right along with the kids. It’s a great opportunity for the high schoolers to practice teaching, and benefits both groups.”

The Northeastern Michigan Fall VEX IQ Challenge Highrise Tournament will involve each school that participates in camp. The challenge will be to have two robots work collaboratively as an alliance to score points in 60 second teamwork challenge matches.

“The kits are put together for the competiton, and students will have time to get familiar with them and the process of building the robots,” Fitzpatrick said. “These kits are designed by professionals, and the high school kids found they could do so much more than they thought their abilities were when they started. It really teaches them about their potential.”

Teams also can participate in two additional challenges: The Robot Skills Challenge, where one robot takes the field to score as many points as possible under driver control, and the Programming Skills Challenge, where one robot scores as many points as possible autonomously without any driver inputs. Teams work together to score points in teamwork matches and also show off their skills in individual skills challenges.

“This is a great chance for students to try a new experience, work as a team and be creative,” Fitzpatrick said. “Anyone that’s interested in expanding their horizons is welcome to register for camp and learn about robotics. These STEM fields are areas that are continually growing opportunities for careers, and it’s important for parents to think about that now. The project is student driven, and mentors don’t have to be engineers to participate.”

Schools participating in the robotics summer camp will receive a kit and a coupon worth $50 to cover the cost of tournament registration. To view the challenge, visit www.vexrobotics.com/vexiq/iq-challenge.

For more information about the challenge, call Fitzpatrick at 358-5043, or email fitzpatrickl@alpenaschools.com.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.