Remote control
Staff Sgt. Erin Dobbins (right) explains the controls of the MTRS to Iyana Moses during a robotics clinic inside the Bronco Youth Center at Fort Hood, Texas, March 15. (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - Child and Youth Services hosted a robotics clinic for youth here, March 15-17, at Bronco Youth Center during their spring break event Ultimate Breakout.

On the first day of the event, the kids were introduced to the MTRS II, or the Man Transportable Robot System Increment II, which is a tool that allows explosive ordnance disposal technicians a remote way to deal with explosive hazards.

Since they have hosted robotic clinics at youth center before, even having robotics teams that have gone to earn first place in competition, Miriam Washington, BYC manager, knew having a clinic in the plans for their spring break event would be a hit with the youth.

“We are searching for ideas to keep youth challenged, engaged, busy and offering STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities like a robotic clinic provides opportunities for youth to use creative thinking skills,” she said. “The purpose of this clinic is to bring fun, hands-on learning to the youth enrolled in the spring break camp.”

Staff Sgt. Erin Dobbins and Spc. James Kennedy from 752nd Ordnance Company brought the MTRS and taught the kids how to control them.

Dobbins has worked with Army robots for six years and was excited to share her knowledge with Fort Hood youth.

“I always like watching how excited they (the kids) get when they finally get comfortable enough with the controls to really have fun with it,” she said. “That visible excitement when the robot does exactly what they told it to do. For us it’s just part of the job, so it’s a nice reminder that it’s a pretty cool piece of technology. Plus, it’s hard not to smile when the kids are.”

A youth lifts a ping pong ball off of a traffic caution cone during a robotics clinic inside Bronco Youth Center at Fort Hood, Texas, March 15. (Photo Credit: Blair Dupre, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

Some of the kids enjoyed just running the robot around the room while others took on the challenge of navigating it through caution cones and grabbing small objects.

“Each joint, movement and camera has it’s own button, sometimes two, and it’s not always intuitive but they caught on fast. I was impressed,” Dobbins said. “For most of them we only had to go over it once or twice before they were off zooming around and picking things up without too much chaos.”

Washington’s favorite part was seeing the kid’s face light up once they completed a task.

“The activity certainly helped the young engineers in our program gain a better understanding of how robots are used on a daily basis, especially in a military setting,” she explained.

Dobbins hopes that the youth at the BYC enjoyed learning about the robot and that maybe some of them have a passion for robotics that was sparked.

“I hope they had fun, it (was) their spring break after all, but I also hope that if any of them were even a little interested in robotics that this gives them some insight and hands on experience into some real world applications,” she explained. “And if they don’t think robots are cool enough, I hope it at least gave them some different perspective on how technology fits into everyday life to keep us all safe.”