By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
DANVILLE — Campers crafted robots that lobbed balls, smashed blocks and launched toys last week at the Danville school district’s first robotics summer camp.
Thirty-seven kids, all entering fifth grade through seventh grade, attended the camp the week of Aug. 5, meeting from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Liberty Valley Intermediate School. Another 17 attended a beginner’s camp the previous week. All the students were also members of the district’s robotics club.
“They love it,” said Sara Nogle, co-advisor for the camp and the robotics club.
The students got the chance to show off their finished creations to family, teachers and friends at a special exhibition held at 10 a.m. Aug. 8 at Liberty Valley school.
At the start of the camp, students were broken up into teams and expected to build their robot according to one of three different models. However, Nogle and Cheryl Cooper, the club’s second advisor, were pleasantly surprised when many groups decided to add their own flourishes instead of just following the directions.
“Most of them modified it and made it their own,” Nogle said. “They went beyond our wildest expectations. … It was just amazing.”
One group decided early on to start with the model for a claw-equipped robot, and worked hard to reprogram it to throw a ball at a target.
A second robot, nicknamed “Boogie Bot” by the audience, followed a series of pre-programmed commands to turn and spin around the floor.
Another launched a small figurine across the room while a fourth used a lift to place objects atop a stack of books.
At the end of the demonstration, the students fielded questions from the audience related to the construction of their robots.
One member in attendance was Cheryl Latorre, Danville school district superintendent. “I think it’s amazing,” she said of the camp. “I hope it continues.”
Nogle is in the planning stages of putting together a competition team that will participate in robotics contests at different schools.
Two student “experts” also volunteered to assist the campers, sixth-grader John Maize and seventh-grader James Zola. “They very nicely volunteered their summer to help us out,” Nogle said.
Together, James and John handled many of the students’ problems with their robots, which could range from looking for pieces to programming.
“I think its cool you can make a robot do whatever you want … and how it all works together,” James said.
“They learn to expand their science and mathematics skills, problem solving skills … and most of all, teamwork,” said Cooper, of the campers. “It was very successful. We plan on doing it again.”
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