While building your very own little robot might sound like pure fun and games, WSU's Robots on the Palouse camp is actually a great learning experience as well. According to Linda Schoepflin, director of summer session at Washington State University, campers actually solder the robots together. (The camp is run by two instructors and two junior assistants who have been to the camp before.) Care and precision are paramount: Everything must be done correctly or else the robots won't work. The entire process teaches campers a lot about electrical engineering, computers, motors and (of course) robots.
"Robots are so amazing, and they're everywhere now," said Schoepflin. This summer's campers will build the Spider III robot, a bright green creation sure to thrill all who help assemble it. The completed robot has a light sensor beam that allows it to sense obstacles and change direction; it can even walk in the dark. Plus, the kids get to bring the little guy home at the end of the week and fulfill every adolescent child's dream: annoying everyone else in the house with a robotic spider.
Campers also get to play with Robosapian V2, which stands more than 2 feet tall and can perform a wide array of sophisticated activities such as picking things up, throwing things, sitting, bending, walking, talking, sitting down, standing up, waving, shaking hands and more. He also comes equipped with infrared radar vision, a stereo sound-detection system and a sensory vision system. When they're not busy building or playing with robots, campers can build an 8-to-10-foot roller coaster, merry-go-rounds and Ferris wheels with K'Nex.
Another plus is that the camp gives students a chance to familiarize themselves with the college environment. One of the favorite activities for campers is eating in the dining center with college student counselors. "The bigger picture of what we do is getting these kids comfortable on a college campus," said Schoepflin. "We're encouraging them to want to go to college and get an education so they can go on and do something else."
According to Schoepflin, Robots on the Palouse is a popular camp at WSU, partly because the class can only accept 22 students. It tends to fill up fast.
Robots on the Palouse * WSU, 121 Cleveland Hall, Pullman, Wash. * July 10-14, 8:30 am-3:30 pm * Grades 5-6 * Cost: $225 * Visit www.cougarquest.wsu.edu/daycamp/Default.asp * Call: (509) 335-1235