Summer Camp Gives Area Girls Experience with Robotics

August 12, 2016

When they return to their area schools this month, 50 girls in grades five through eight will be able to tell their friends all about their adventures creating characters like “Stanley the Robot” and “SusanBob,” small robots that the girls built from LEGO® kits. Along the way, the participants in the four Girls Can! Robotics camp sessions held in July at University Campus learned about programming, mathematics, and collaboration, all of which are important skills to nurture in young women to meet the nation’s ongoing needs for people skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.


Dr. Monika Kiss of Saint Leo University’s mathematics faculty began offering Girls Can! Robotics summer day camps in 2015. Girls came to University Campus every day and enjoyed activities at a college campus (including games on the lawn and in the pool), in addition to the confidence-building challenges the robotics-building camps for beginners provided them. This year, the opportunities were expanded to include a week for girls with intermediate-level skills. Also this year, a generous grant from the Joy McCann Foundation of Tampa helped pay for supplies and other expenses, keeping the costs to families affordable. The camp also included a field trip to Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) just as in 2015, where campers encounter other kinds of  inventions and innovations.


Back at University Campus, girls worked with LEGO® EV3 Mindstorm under the direction of Dr. Kiss and SLU undergraduate assistants Amanda Luce and Samantha Kern, and another aid, Elizabeth Tiller. (SLU student Mary Elizabeth Shuey also volunteered and helped during the evening and overnight camping hours for the intermediate-level campers.)  Campers worked on the step-by-step process of programming their bots to do perform functions, such as moving or speaking upon given commands. Various campers, working in pairs or small groups, made their robots work like forklifts, dance around a science lab floor, and even parade to the tune “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” the latter two using the available sound technology. In a group project paying tribute to the local Tampa Bay Rays professional baseball team, girls brought their robots together and lined them up in a row for a special synchronized cheer. The bots were programmed to move their arms up and down in wavelike succession as a recorded crowd roared. The School of Arts and Sciences captured the fun on video and posted it to a Facebook page.

In real life, some girls said if they had the means to program robots to do anything, they would want to configure bots that would serve up ice cream and clean their rooms.

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