SCI Camps: Robot Rumble

SCI Camps: Robot Rumble

By: Anna McCleary, SCI Summer Camp Educator

What a better way to spend the hottest week of the summer so far than building and playing with robots at science camp! 

Last week, the 3rd and 4th grade SCI summer campers learned all about robots and electronics during Robot Rumble camp. Kids experimented with circuits, made robots and saw different types of robots that are used by professionals.

The Des Moines Bomb Squad brought in their robots and showed the kids how robots are used to keep them safe. Campers got a chance to get up close and personal with two of the bigger bomb squad bots. They loved watching the robots pass a water bottle and move their cameras, though their favorite was the toy robot that talked and danced. 

One of the coolest things we did was use robot arms. We challenged campers to write their name, draw a picture, pass blocks and build towers using the remote-controlled robots. Most pictures were random dots and lines, but some kids made legible writing! Campers used teamwork to pass a block from robot arm to robot arm without dropping it (most times). They loved using the video-game-like controller to move the arm’s shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand.

Later in the week, we took a day to visit DMACC Department of Electronics, Robotics and Automation.  We observed students making metal and plastic parts that could be used in robots and other machines, computer-operated machines carve out molds and a "MakerBot" turn strings of plastic into souvenir key chains. Campers then got to operate complex robot arms. After the practice at SCI, they were experts!

The kids’ favorite robots were the super fast solar racing cars. These DIY robot kits were fun for the campers to put together and see work. Not having tested them, I wasn’t sure how fast the cars would be, but once we got them outside, the cars nearly ran away! The kids liked making them start and stop by covering the cars with their shadows.

My favorite robot (and an easy one to make at home) is the Art Bot. Powered by a vibrating toy motor and two AA batteries, these robots twirl and bounce around making fun designs and patterns. The kids loved putting them together, figuring out how to make them work better and watching them draw. 

Science Center of Iowa Camps use project-based curriculum on a variety of subjects and provide hands-on experiences to spark young explorers' interest in science. Registration is still available for select camps through August 16. Learn more at www.sciowa.org/camps.

Category: Camps