TROY — With summer break at its height, WACO Air Museum and Learning Center is seeking to keep kids engaged with its robotics camps, beginning this week at the center in Troy.
The five-day camp, running Monday through Friday, is designed to engage students through hands-on activities oriented around science, technology, mechanics, engineering and computer programming.
This week’s camp, which hosts 20 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, challenges students in two-person teams to build a customized robot with LEGO bricks, gears, axles, motors and sensors.
On Wednesday, objectives are unveiled on what each robot needs to accomplish upon a tabletop map. Students are left to develop their robots to accomplish each task. Examples of past objectives include knocking over a stack of blocks, navigating around road barriers, and using color sensors to pick up a ball and bring it to home base. All work on robots must be done at the center.
According to WACO executive director Nancy Royer, the center has hosted the camp for the last eight years to tremendous reception.
“We’ve had great success with this process,” Royer said. “Every year, we change the challenge, and based on the kids’ abilities, we’ll go into as much depth as they’re willing to soak up and learn. There’s a lot of things we can teach them about, but we always start with a general overview and then take them to the next level.”
Royer provided praise for the various adult volunteers who are giving their time to the program.
“Most of our volunteers are engineers or work in I.T.” Royer said. “They’re giving their time in the evenings after working all day long. It’s their specialty, though, so they have a lot to offer the kids.”
On Friday, students will perform final programming revisions on their robots before a demonstration of each team’s creation. Families are encouraged to attend and take photos.
“Robotics is the way of the future.” Royer said. “There are very few jobs that aren’t going to be touched in some way by this. Hopefully, we have a large amount of kids who walk away wanting to go into a science or technology field.
“Most kids touch on it in school, but this gives them a chance to be more immersed in the summertime. We’re really about promoting the STEM education and getting some kids excited about these jobs.”
Another robotics camp is being offered June 16-20 to seventh, eighth, and ninth graders. Registration for the program is still open.
The center will also be hosting two drone camps, which will run consecutively on Monday, July 30, through Friday, Aug. 3. The camps will be led by instructors from the UAS Training and Certification Center at Sinclair Community College. Students grades 4-12 are eligible, and registration for both camps are still open.
For more information, visit www.wacoairmuseum.org.