What’s more fun than robots? Summer camp making robots!
Like many colleges, Ashesi hosted a summer campfor high school kids. This program drew kids nominated by their science teachers from around the country. Thanks to the Mastercard Foundation, even kids who had never before left their village got to participate.
In only one week, mentored by college students and taught by professors, these students (and everyone at yesterday’s final show down) got a taste of what it might have been like to create the Mars rover. They built pineapple harvesters!
Each team designed and built a robot that runs from a power pack and draws on light sensors (thus the low light room) and color sensors to follow paths, recognize when it encounters a “pineapple”,
grab the pineapple, turn around (if less than half way down the path), and return to the “factory” (a colored sheet of paper corresponding to the robot’s color sensor) to deposit the harvest. Then, the robot depended on its programming to go back into the “field” to harvest more pineapples. To make things even more fun, students were asked to design robots that could distinguish between two forms of agriculture – planting along a windy path the farmer decides, or planting in rectangular field shapes.
The competition today scored each robot based on speed, number of pineapples successfully grabbed, number delivered to the factory (sometimes the pineapple got knocked over or simply bull dozed to the factory!), and deductions for each of up to three times that the team touched either the robot or the pineapple (quite useful for re-orienting a confused robot or resetting a downed pineapple). A sophisticated experience of applied behavioral learning.
Kudos to the teachers and student-mentors. The runs were fabulous!
Oh, to be a kid again.