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Learn by Doing: 2018 STEM/Robotics Camp Provides Hands-on Education

Throughout the week of July 30, students from the nine Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES component districts converged on the Regional Education Center to participate in the third annual Robotics/STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Camp. Each day of the camp is organized into four distinct areas of study: robotics, makerspace, 3D printing, and drone operation. Every day begins with an ice-breaking, brain-teasing team event to get the ball rolling (sometimes literally).

The camp will see upwards of 70 students between fourth and eighth grade visit the BOCES to get some genuine, hands-on education on STEM activities. While the specific activities for each category might be different each day, they'll generally share consistent elements throughout the week:

Drone Operation: Students first attend a presentation on drone operation, learning the ins and outs of safely operating the device. They'll also learn about the science behind small unmanned vehicle flight, before getting the opportunity to try the technology out for themselves. Those who are particularly adept at handling the drones might even get the chance to try to navigate the obstacle course!

3D Printing through Tinkercad: Using the online 3D design/printing app Tinkercad, students will learn the basics of how to create a 3D model, add objects such as text, and then print it out their design using an Ultimaker 3D printer. This process affords students the opportunity to design in three diminesions, learn how to manipulate objects in the 3D space, and actually see the fruits of their labor physically produced before their eyes. 

Makerspace: This process seemingly starts off simple, with students using markers to draw an undefined path on plain white paper. Then, using Ozobots, students watch as the spherical robots travel along the path that they created. Programming dicates where the robots go as colors converge or cross one another, providing students with a unique opportunity to combine logic with an execution of their own design.

Robotics: Students are given the opportunity, using LEGO Mindstorms, to build a vehicle out of LEGO pieces, that they can then program to operate along a defined path, performing defined actions. So, students could program their vehicle to travel around the "course," use a payloader to pick up a wooden block, and more. Whereas Ozobots allowed students to define a path, LEGO Mindstorms added the wrinkle of letting students build their actual vehicle.  

The morning brain teasers were often decidedly more low-tech, but accomplished the goal of engaging young minds, albeit in a different way. One morning challenge tasked student teams with creating a structure out of marshmallows and dried spaghetti in a set amount of time. The group with the tallest structure by the end of the event was declared the winner.

Students worked together to tackle the challenge, and half the fun was seeing how the different groups approached the task at hand. Some groups focused on building as sturdy a base as possible, hoping to provide the literal foundation needed to make their leaning tower of pasta reach high into the sky. Others groups stripped out the mechanics and focused solely on the endgoal: making the tallest structure in the amount of time given. Regardless of who won the event, the intent was clear: groups of students, working together, to take what they felt was the best approach to accomplishing the given task.

"We're very happy with this year's turnout, but we're hoping to grow the camp even more in the coming years," said Tony Abbatiello, Director of Instructional Support Services. "Ideally, we'd like to start getting kids attending these camps from kindergarten on, to cultivate an interest in STEM from an earlier age."

Parents and community members are invited to to attend the Camp's expo on Friday, Aug. 4, from 1-3 p.m. This will give these interested parties the chance to see what the students have accomplished throughout the week. 






Brian K. Hartwell, Ed.D.
District Superintendent of Schools

1879 West Genesee Street Rd.
Auburn, NY 13021
Phone: (315) 253-0361

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