Robot Camp: San Diego

From Idaho to San Diego — In December I had a fantastic time sharing with young students my passion for prototyping, troubleshooting and of course robotics.

We were looking for a way to teach the kids a new skill and robotics workshop are popular. I was introduced to robots this way and I believe the experience sticks with students. I have been in all sorts of workshops and there is something to be said about being given the tools to do something. Workshops accomplish two things, centralizing resources that would have been hard for a few inexperienced and unconnected individuals to get and maximize impact on a few because of the high incentive to finish and the level of support from experts in the room.

It should be apparent that novices are the ones that increase the number of people, not teaching the same people over and over again. Technical subjects are the same as trade subjects, at some point, you need to be exposed to these skills and taught how to do them. So that is why we taught these young students, some as young as 6.

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The process

We had to define the experience we wanted for our students and we decided we wanted them to build a robot in a one day workshop with mentors and other students around.

Then we selected the hardware we would use. The use of a robot kit simplifies the process and lead time on our end. With no doubt, robotics teams today source their parts and build their designs. So one day these students may join that process. But our focus was on building a robot in one day.
The robot kit had an Arduino that loaded with some code. Students could use mBlock, a simple scratch block programming software, to take on other programming ideas.

My preferred instruction style for this type of workshop is to allow students to work on their own or with a partner. We were fortunate to be able to have each student work and take home their robotic kit, thanks to the partnership with Clarity Designs. I would guide from the front of the classroom with specific instructions for hard to understand areas. Most importantly I would ask students to come up and get regular checks on their assembly progress that either passed or requested changes, such as flipping the motor orientation or wire placement.

From their troubleshooting was an on the fly sort of thing and some students needed more help than others. Sometimes their assembly looked right but didn’t work right.

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All in all, we instructed 28 students. I am proud of Spurge and his team at Lilstar.

Lilstar is a STEAM program that servers underserved Black students in the greater San Deigo area. Through workshops in Rocketry, Virtual Reality and Robotics they are providing students with beneficial education on advanced technology that propels them to advanced careers.

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Written by:

Camille is a Mechanical Engineering student sharing about her personal relationships and experiences working in the tech field as a woman of color.

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