Camp introduces young Hampton students to robotics

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

With the press of a button a robot whirs to life, chases a balloon across a table and then pops it.

A group of middle school students programmed the autonomous robot to complete this capture and destroy mission at the annual Robo Camp held at Hampton High School.

High school students involved in Botball, a competitive robotics program in which teams create robots to complete specific tasks in a certain amount of time, offered the camp to introduce students to robotics.

Proceeds from the camp help offset the costs of registering for competition.

This year, more than 100 students in kindergarten through eighth grade participated in the daylong Robo Camp last month.

“There's more than video games in the world,” Vince Kuzniewski, the Botball team's faculty adviser, said of the camp. “This is their future.”

Students were divided by grade and given assignments of varying complexity.

Kindergartners and first-graders built sumo bots, created to push an opposing robot out of a competition ring. Second- and third-graders built and programmed robots with a winch that pulled a weight attached to a string.

Fourth- and fifth-graders programmed and built a robot with ultrasonic, touch and light sensors to navigate a maze, and students in sixth through eighth grades programmed a robot that located and chased a balloon, then popped the target.

“I think it's phenomenal,” said Glenn Thomas, of Hampton, whose son, Jacob, participated in the camp. “There was nothing like this back in the day. It's really great they have this type of opportunity for the students.

“Engineering and computer science, that's the trend, that's the future.”

Nick Bland of Carnegie Robotics Inc., a Lawrenceville company that builds robotic products and sensors, showed students at the camp how the technology is used outside of the classroom. Bland demonstrated how the Multi Sense RCL machine uses a laser and camera to create panoramic 3D models of the environment.

For many students, the Robo Camp is their first opportunity to try programming, and sixth-grader Kieran Russell was impressed with what he and other students accomplished.

“We took all the stuff we learned and put it together,” Kieran said. “Basically, we wrote the code (to program the robot). I didn't know we'd be doing that, but it was fun.”

The high school students who organize and teach the camp sections want the introduction to robotics to show students another education option.

“We're hoping to pique their interest in it and know the inner workings of it,” said Ian Waldschmidt, a senior. “I liked math and science, but I didn't have a good way to combine the two (until Botball).

“This is combining what you see on TV with the reality of it.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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