By Alexandra Foran, NatickJuly 24, 2012
NATICK, Mass. (July 24, 2012) -- A Land and Sea Robotics Camp ran July 9-12 and 16-19 at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in collaboration with the NSRDEC and the Natick summer academic school systems.
Army engineers, civilian employees and Soldiers helped support the camp, which integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, known as STEM. The STEM program was attended by 20 middle school students assisted by 14 high school volunteers.
"They're having a blast," said Rebecca Engle, a STEM coordination assistant at NSRDEC. "A lot of the students have said it's a lot harder than they thought. They have all faced obstacles, but it's great because they're learning a lot of problem-solving skills."
During the two-week program the students built mini-robots with Lego NXT kits, as well as their own SeaPerch Remotely Operated Vehicle. This hands-on work allows students to learn in an environment that allows for creativity and team-building, in particular.
"These projects propose a lot of engineering problems and present a lot of the concepts involved in engineering," said Doug Scott, the Natick teacher overseeing the program, "so it's a good match. The kids get excited about a lot of this stuff. It's something different."
High school mentors are students who are either on the robotics team at Natick High or met Scott through classes; they are community service volunteers who are learning leadership skills through their work with the younger students.
"The mentors wanted to come here; they all volunteered to come here," Scott said. "They have just as much fun as the kids."
The camp offered friendly competitions and races once the robots had been completed. Students got to throw their hard work into the base's pool in the hopes that their submersibles would respond as designed. Plus, NSRDEC donated the SeaPerch ROVs, so the students got to bring them home after they have been built and tested.
Two high school juniors, Christopher Moynihan and Annika Jonsson, participated in the camp as volunteers and will also be part of Natick High's robotics teams. They both enjoyed their time as mentors at the camp.
"It's really nice to be a higher influence and to participate in helping children," Moynihan said. "These kids are already doing programming and building these robots to accomplish challenges, you know, and we're doing the same thing. It's kind of amazing to see the younger generation, even compared to us, going through and doing all these challenges at younger ages."
"I think it's really cool hearing the responses when you ask them questions," Jonsson said. "They're able to build their own things, and when you walk around and you look around at all the kids, they're all figuring out their own problems, which is awesome. It's cool."
This is the third annual summer camp offered at NSRDEC. This year the camp expanded from Natick students to also include those from Melrose, Holliston, Milford, Boston's North End, and Newton.