Summer camp teaches robotics, engineering

Jul. 25, 2014 @ 01:51 PM

In a classroom at the Patterson Science Center this week, everywhere you looked there were robotics in the making — Lego robotic puppies, copper spiders and moving paper hands.

The 19 students, mostly rising ninth-graders, bent over their tables, soldering together a circuit board for their Muscle Wires Moving Hand Kit. Once the circuit board was complete, they attached wires to the paper hand. Many of the children were so fascinated by the process that they hope to become engineers one day.

“I’ll probably end up being an engineer because everything I like doing ends up at engineering, so I’ll probably be an engineer. There’s a lot of demand for it,” Rachel Watkins, 13, said. “I like working with science. I just like to know how everything works.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” called out the instructor, Tom Dubick of Young Engineers of Today and The Science House at North Carolina State. The Robotic Serpents and Cyborg Cockroaches camp was funded by a grant from Google for $25,000.

Rachel soldered her circuit board. Curls of black smoke rose up to meet her big safety goggles before disappearing. She hooked up the battery and watched as the small red lights on the board lit up in a sporadic pattern.

“Oh, something’s wrong,” she muttered.

Her friend Sarah Kelty, 12, shook her head and smiled. “As long as they go on you’re good.” She paused. “I think.”

Across the table, Jamie Bruckmann, 13, worked on a copper spider. After struggling with placing the watch battery, Bruckmann sat back with satisfaction as the spider started vibrating and moving about the table. Thanks to a small motor, the battery powered the motor, and the copper acted as an electrical current to make the spider move.

“I’m really excited about programming,” Bruckmann said. “It’s really cool.”

Luke Kelty, 13, worked on his hand across the room. Watching the red lights blink against the green circuit board, he said it looked “like Christmas.”

“You get to play with cool toys,” Luke said about his love for the camp. “It’s like big-kid Snap Circuits.”

Luke wants to be an architect when he grows up but said he has learned valuable skills that he can apply to his future career.

“(I’ve learned) that when stuff doesn’t work out, you need to figure out why it’s not working instead of just throwing your hands in the air,” Luke said.

Kayla White, 16, said she was surprised by how much fun she was having.

“I think it’s a new experience,” White said. “I like to experience new things, and this is a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be.”