Careers could STEM from camp fun

Robotics - it's the future
Jul. 26, 2013 @ 10:08 AM

By the time most children reach middle school, they've had their hands on some sort of robot or mechanical toy that moves around the room and makes noise with the simple flip of a switch or press of a button.

Kids normally accept this form of technological luxury without much thought, until the day arrives when it either breaks or runs out of batteries.

A group of young students at Davidson County Community College spent last week getting much more involved in the process of robotic movement than that.

DCCC held its second annual STEM Camp as a way to introduce rising fourth through eighth graders to possible, and soon-to-be in demand, careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

"This camp really is designed to help stimulate an interest in STEM related career paths," said camp coordinator Anissa Causey. "The kids have been very engaged and very excited. We've seen a lot of interest and I I think some kids are looking at some other career opportunities that maybe they haven't already looked at." 

Job forecasters predict the country will face a shortage of qualified professionals in STEM careers in the near future. Through the week-long camp, students gain exposure to activities stressing problem-solving, teamwork and thinking outside-the-box.

"I mostly like the programming because I like dealing with computers and things like that," Kassiah Prince, an 11-year-old rising seventh grader at Thomasville Middle School. "I don't really like building things. I have enjoyed it a lot."

On Friday, students culminated the camp with a competition featuring LEGO Mindstorm robots. Campers split up into small groups and collaborated on a robotic programming exercise to be judged by a panel of adults inside DCCC's Brinkley Gymnasium. Family and friends were invited with many showing up to offer their support.

" I really like it," said David Caviness, a rising seventh grader at Ledford Middle School. "I'm loving the robot building. You get to find out what pieces do and you can make the robot do a lot of stuff."

Students were judged on the robot's ability to follow straight lines and perform programmed actions. Some of the robots manipulated their course flawlessly, while others struggled to stay on course.

"The programming was pretty interesting," said Calvin Hepler, a 12-year-old seventh grader at Brown Middle School. "You had to make sure it was exact or it wouldn't work at all. You got to do a lot of different stuff and watch the robot do its thing and say ‘I programmed that.' "

Participants in the camp included nearly 90 students from Lexington, Thomasville, Davie County and Davidson County school systems. The camp was sponsored by DCCC, PPG Industries and ASCO Power Technologies. Causey plans already are underway to not bring the camp back next summer but also expand it.

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578 or duke@tvilletimes.com.