AspireIT Program: Robot Springboard @ Drexel University
We weren’t quite sure what to expect going into our first day of our Robot Springboard @ Drexel University camp. As the clock ticked onward towards 8:45, when our first campers would be arriving, we steadily grew more and more nervous. Months of planning had gone into this single week and the two of us had spent hours upon hours putting together our curriculum, from the lectures we would give, to the games and challenges we would have the girls do, and to the speakers we would invite to talk to our girls at lunch. We were equal parts excited and mildly terrified. It would only be our second time teaching and frankly, we were both a little unsure of ourselves. What if the girls didn’t like the material? What if they weren’t interested in learning? What if no one came back?
It turns out that our fears were completely unfounded.
Our week long camp was a whirlwind of fun and hard work, both for our campers and for ourselves. We would start off each day with a team building exercise; the goal of these activities was to encourage the girls to bond with one another and learn to solve problems as a group. Immediately afterwards, we would jump into our latest topic.
We had decided to start out with the very basics. The girls built their tribots in record speed and programmed them to navigate a maze quickly and efficiently by the second day. We then gradually moved into more advanced programming: How do you line follow? What are data wires and how are they useful? What do you do if the robot’s next action is dependent on the prior action? Many of these topics are challenging, but the girls understood them with ease.
We had many proud moments with our students. One of our students spent a half-hour attempting to complete her mission to mars and had her robot follow a line in a circle, pick up a cup using an attachment she had built herself, and then utilized her robot’s ultrasonic sensor in a way that we hadn’t even expected for her to think of.
We tested the girls’ knowledge of ‘Robot Jeopardy’ and were astounded when they answered every single question correctly. They even worked incredibly hard on their social solutions, coming up with informative posters and skits to relay their ideas to their parents and guest speakers. At our banquet, a celebration at the end of the week, the girls showed their families what they had done that week. They proudly displayed their new skills, and demonstrated the different programs and robots they had built through out the week.
By the final day of class, we were exhausted but so incredibly proud of the girls taking our course. Many approached us and asked if we offered more advanced courses. Others had questions about NCWIT and how they could get involved. Others still talked about how they had gone from thinking technology was fairly ‘geeky’ to thinking it was actually pretty cool. They are the students we founded Robot Springboard for; they are the students who leave camp feeling more secure and confident in both themselves and their tech skills.