Summer robotics camp

An ARX robot

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.

One of 16 proud teams

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!

Pineapple ready for harvest

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”,

Successful “grab”

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.

Harvesting fields planted in quads

Harvesting along a farmer’s path

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.

Tensely watching your robot perform

Kudos to the teachers and student-mentors. The runs were fabulous!

Oh, to be a kid again.

4 responses to “Summer robotics camp

  1. Hey MG, Glad that you were privy to such a fascinating learning experiment. The inquiry-based approach has gained substantial favor in the recent years. Actually, the HHMI just awarded to Southwestern encourages this type of active learning where students would in projects and as a team to answer a question or reach a goal. SMArT, the Civic Engagement program at SU, works on a similar model for elementary school students. Several of those kids chose to build robots as their project. My favorite request was a robot “to do my homework and eat my broccoli.” Just those two things! I also like the tiered learning approach. “Teaching Assistants” get a bad rap at big universities for not being connected to students or being a placeholder for a professor. However, I think that our senior students could learn a lot from being in that type of role. Enjoying the blog! Keep it coming, stay safe and eat lots of yummy chocolate.

  2. Mary Grace, was there any discussion at the end about what they learned or how they learned it? If so, how was it facilitated and received?

  3. Looks like fun! It reminds me a bit of some of the summer projects SU does with high school students both in V2S2 and STEPS. The students seem to have real pride in their products and I’m sure they all have a competitive spirit in wanting their robot to be the best “pineapple picker.” I also love that you are blogging about cool technology related things. 🙂

  4. What a brilliant blog! (I have a VSO friend who uses “brilliant” where I would use “wonderful” or “great”. You took some amazing pictures! I am tempted to “plagerize” this!

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