Young scientists have fun, tackle problems during robotics summer camp
September 6, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany, Sept. 6, 2011 -- A sign in the second floor hallway of Wiesbaden High School served as a tipoff that big works were in progress.
With summer vacation nearing its conclusion, 40 young scientists were hard at work just down the hall from the "Warrior-Technology-Strasse" sign, putting their math, computer and engineering skills to the test. The youths, in grades seventh to ninth (with a few younger students thrown in for good measure), were enjoying a special Robotics Summer Camp, hosted by Frank Pendzich, Wiesbaden High School Engineering Technology and Professional Technical Studies instructor and RoboWarrior team adviser.
"We talked about doing this for a number of years," said Pendzich, explaining that the robotics workshop was aimed at "giving a broader range of students an opportunity to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math."
Pendzich's classroom was abuzz with groups of individuals working closely together to solve various challenges as they prepared various-sized robots which would soon be put to the test during competitions.
"It's really fun," said Josh Merchat, who started ninth-grade this school year. "I've been interested (in robotics), but never had the resources."
"I like robots," said Michael Ross. "They're fun to build."
For Karsten Hold the appeal of the summer camp was the opportunity to build and program.
"It's really quite remarkable," said Pendzich, about the interest and efforts of the camp participants. "These kids don't even know they're learning geometry and other skills."
Pendzich said the summer camp was modeled after other successful FIRST, which stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, programs, the sponsor of annual nationwide robotics competitions in the United States and around the world. Students started off the four-day session doing team-building and problem-solving activities.
"Like everything, you just can't teach engineering directly, you have to put it in context," he said, explaining that before tackling the challenges of creating machines to perform activities and overcome obstacles, the students were first presented with a human version of the game. "They got to see firsthand how a human would solve the problem."
The veteran adviser of several successful robotics teams which competed at past Las Vegas FIRST Robotics Competitions said Department of Defense Education Activity officials have recognized how important it is for students to expand their knowledge and skills in the science, technology and engineering fields. "I think our school system has seen the value of programs like this which encourage learning."
Pendzich added that the RoboWarrior team has been invited to a competition in Israel as well as the annual event in Las Vegas this coming spring.
"The world needs more people who know how to problem solve -- people with different ideas," said Casey Mann, one of the volunteer camp counselors. "As future engineers, we have to have the mindset that there's more than one solution.
Mann, who is a high school junior this year and a three-year veteran of the RoboWarriors, said she enjoyed the chance to mentor younger students. "It's really interesting because some kids do things you never thought about doing."
She also highly recommended the RoboWarrior experience -- working on building robots to compete at the annual competition in Las Vegas. "The competition is very exciting. Even when your own robot isn't winning, you feel love for the other robots -- you want them to do well either way. And the bonding -- you meet so many different people -- everyone loves making friends.
"Teachers should try to put engineering, science, technology and math into their programs," she added. "Without people who like science and math, we wouldn't have the world we do today."
"We have a number of parent and teacher volunteers," Pendzich said about the summer camp. "It's a great experience having that much support from the community."
For more information about this year's RoboWarrior project, or to get involved, contact Frank Pendzich at the high school.