Robotics Team Camp kids learn basics

ALPENA – Over 60 students participated in Robotics Team Camp this week at Alpena High School to learn the basics of building and operating robots. Alpena Public Schools received a Michigan Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Partnership grant through Michigan Works to hold the summer camp and a tournament in the fall for the area.

Each team attending the camp was provided a VEX IQ robot kit, and with the help of the Alpena High School FIRST Robotics Team and its leader Melissa Doubek, the fourth and fifth grade students performed several tasks with their robots.

“We have 13 teams of four or five students each from eight different elementary schools,” Doubek said. “During the camp, teams had to overcome different challenges every day with their robots, including working to program them and change speeds and torque.”

Some of the events included programming the robots to run driver-free through a set course, running a drag race and stacking and organizing cups with the robots claws. Each team has a student from the high school or junior high robotics team helping and teaching the students how to work with their robots.

“These student mentors are really helping to inspire the kids to have fun with science, technology, engineering and problem solving,” Doubek said. “I’m really enthusiastic about how much the kids are working and learning while building these robots, and the high school kids have been doing a great job working with each team to inspire and teach them about robotics.”

Mentor Mason Momrik said the students on his team were taking control of the project and learning quickly how to operate their robot.

“The program for these robots is really good,” Momrik said. “The robots are built together like Legos, and the computer program is a drag and drop style that is easy for them to work with. I’m confident they will be able to do it by themselves with a little practice. They have been learning about gear ratios and how adjusting things can affect the objective of the robot and what it is capable of doing. It’s great to get them excited about robotics and involved so maybe in the future they will want to join the high school team.”

After the camp, each team will be able to take their VEX IQ robot kit back to their school and re-engineer their robots for the High Rise Challenge Tournament in November. The tournament will involve all the teams that attended the camp, and is the first one to take place in the region.

“Each team will have to rework their robots to complete the different tournament tasks,” Doubek said. “They will all have their VEX IQ robot kit to work with for the tournament. Having the camp was a great idea to get the kids are excited about robotics and started on how to build and run a robot. Each task involved a lot of trial and error. They would come out and try something, see how it worked, and then go back and fix it. It really teaches them to be patient, make mistakes, and rework and rethink things to try it again. They are getting hands-on and minds-on with robotics.”

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