Robotics camp a winner with high school students
Alfred University Electrical Engineering Professor Jianxin Tang reflects on the past two summer robotics camps saying the student participants loved learning about robots.
“It turned out to be better than I thought,” says Tang. “They were so excited. They didn’t want to leave.”
The Robotics Engineering Camp for students entering 10th-12th grades offers a platform for learning about areas rich with career opportunities spanning science, technology, engineering, and math.
Through hands-on learning in small classes and problem solving through group teamwork, students learn how to assemble and program a robotics system and command a robot using radio and autonomous controls.
Tang says the camp instructs students in the essentials of robot engineering and all engineering students must understand the “C” programming language.
“The C language is one of the most popular computer languages in engineering,” he maintains. “They all must know the language.”
Tang explains commands the students learn to give the robot include backward, forward, and zigzag. The students design a route of left, right, and diagonal turns and command the robot to move through it. Additionally, he gives short lectures on engineering concepts in ways the students can understand.
Tang says the students’ efforts impress him. He recalls that on the last day of camp last summer, the students asked if they could bring robots to the dining hall. Tang’s daughter, the camp assistant, brought candies that the robots delivered to the people eating lunch.
“That was beyond my expectations,” says Tang. “They all did a fantastic job.”
At the end of the week, three teams took turns competing with tennis balls or foam football with each team having 90 seconds for their robots to throw the balls to the other side of a playing area. The team with the fewest balls remaining won.
Tang says this year’s competition was even better.
“The competition was more intense because the robots picked up more tennis balls and were able to drop them to the other side of the court,” says Tang. “For some of the matches, we needed to count the tennis balls very carefully at the end of the game to tell which team won. We had a few very good programmers this year.”
Tang says he hopes the camp inspired students to pursue engineering, citing a starting salary of $60,000 according to CNN.
He also notes students need to update themselves with changes in technology.
“There are always new things coming out,” Tang points out. “The things that were advanced 10 years ago are now obsolete.”