Seymour students learn robotics and coding in summer camp

Jasper Schafstall and Leo Holle didn’t want their experience at Seymour Community School Corp.’s RoboCode Camp to end.

The two had so much fun learning how to build, program and operate different kinds of robots last week that they wanted to stay all summer.

But thanks to financial support from Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., they got the next best thing. In a surprise announcement at the end of camp Friday, each of the 27 students enrolled learned they would get to take a robot kit home.

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The kids cheered with excitement.

“What I imagine will be fun is when they have play dates with each other during the summer and can bring out their robots,” said camp director Shawn Mahoney, who also is the technology integration specialist for the school corporation.

Conducted at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School, this was the second year for the STEAM-oriented camp, which was open to all incoming fifth graders at Seymour Community Schools. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

A two-week RoboCode Camp for middle school-age students will begin Monday at Seymour Middle School.

Each day, kids worked with a different kind of robot, including Edison, Sphero, Tinkerbots and Ozobots. On the last day, they put on a showcase for parents and family members to demonstrate what they had learned.

Schafstall and Holle, both 10, are students at Seymour-Redding Elementary School. They showed off their robotics skills using tablets to control and maneuver Spheros, which are small, round robots, through an obstacle course they had built.

“It can be tough,” Schafstall said. “Certain steps can be complicated.”

But working together to troubleshoot, they figured out how to make it work.

“I like how you can program the robots and get them to do what you want,” Holle said.

Both boys plan to stay involved in robotics by joining their school’s robotics team and want to sign up for RoboCode Camp again next year.

The camp wasn’t all about the boys, however, as many girls participated, too.

“I loved seeing a lot of girls here, and I loved seeing a lot of our Latino students,” Mahoney said.

Eulalia Dieguez and Isis Ortiz Carrera, both 10, are students at Brown. They enjoyed the interaction with other students and learning about robotics and coding.

“I liked working with the four different robots,” Carrera said. “It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.”

Dieguez said a big part of the camp was learning how to solve problems. They built and programmed a robot to drive around and draw circles on a piece of paper.

“When something didn’t work right, you just had to keep trying,” Dieguez said.

Mahoney said that might be the most important lesson the students learned all week.

“We loved that the kids were learning through trial and error and problem solving,” he said. “That was a lot of fun to see that they didn’t give up.”

Camp instructor Jennifer Regruth said the students didn’t rely on adults for answers.

“They would ask the kid next to them or look around and see who was working on the same thing,” she said. “That’s big that they are learning to work as a team and collaborate with each other.”

Putting two of their brains together can often solve a problem better than one adult, she said.

“They came up with stuff we’ve never seen,” she said.

Students also learned robots are more than toys and can be used in a variety of applications, such as helping move objects from one place to another.

“They were trying to think of how the robots could fit in the world if they had a bigger one,” Regruth said.

In Jackson County, there are so many opportunities for kids to get involved with robotics that it has become just as popular as athletics and music.

“We have more robotic teams per capita than anyplace in the nation,” Mahoney said.

That means Jackson County provides the best access for students to robotics in the country, he said.

“It speaks a lot for the community’s support,” he said.

Regruth said she can tell the camp is a highlight for the students.

“They didn’t mind getting up early in the summer to make it here,” she said. “They were smiling every day.”{!–[if gte mso 10]} {style} /Style Definitions / table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} {/style} {![endif]–}