Twenty-eight Ogden teens gathered this week to tinker with Legos and computers, construct and program small robots, and maybe start building their own futures.
The students, all from the Ogden School District and all entering eighth grade next fall, had enrolled in third annual Northern Utah Robotics Summer Camp (NUBOTS), a collaboration between Weber State University, Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College and the district.
The goal is to expose students a few years from high school graduation to the fun things that can be accomplished with technology. It’s a chance to motivate students to continue learning, and at the same time, to let them experience life in the classroom at Weber State and Ogden-Weber Tech. A camp for incoming 11th graders is set for a week in late July.
“Several students who took the camp last year are still at the ATC,” said Andrew Brown, a pre-enrollment and recruitment specialist at Ogden Weber Tech. “We also teach classes at Ogden High and Ben Lomond High, at students turn up in our classes after attending camp. The camp is definitely doing what we hoped it would do.”
Catherine Aoki, 13, Mount Ogden Junior High, on Thursday picked through a tray of Lego pieces in a Weber State computer lab.
“I’m making a shield to help the robot block moves from opponents,” Catherine said. “I love science and I love robots, so it’s the perfect place to be. Building robots is the new thing. With what I am learning, someday I can build machines.”
Organizers also like to teach students communication and teamwork skills, so students are assigned to work with someone they don’t know. Catherine was partnered with Christian Wilson, a 13-year-old Highland Junior High student.
“If we were from Ogden High and Ben Lomond competition would be a big deal, but we aren’t,” Christian said.
Christian also was building his first robot.
“This was my chance to see what goes into making robots, and how to produce them,” he said. “I’ve done game programs before. It’s been pretty fun. I was always interested in electronics and making things do what I want.”
Christian programmed the gray, wheeled robot to lift and flip, in anticipation of a sumo wrestling competition later that night.
The robots, built from Lego kits, use light sensors do detect bright and dark surfaces. During competition, they are put inside a wooden circle that’s painted black inside with a white rim.
Detecting the white causes the programmed robots to stop and turn around.
“This is great,” Christian said. “If I were at home I’d probably just be playing video games.”
Ethan D’Hulst, 13, sat nearby, using his hand to block his robot’s light sensor, forcing the tiny machine to turn in a circle.
“I like messing around with robots, and I like Legos,” said the Ogden Preparatory Academy student. “I have learned a lot. Some of it has been hard, but it’s been worth it.”
Rainie Ingram, WSU student recruitment and Science Technology Engineering Programs (STEP) director, said seeing students grow is her favorite part of NUBOTS.
“This camp is the best part of the job, especially to see kids struggle then to be able to make something happen. It’s a blast. I wish there had been a program like this when I was a student. It would have made a difference in my life, to have an opportunity like this.”
Ingram said since the first day, no students had dropped out.
“They continue to show up. They are learning and having fun.”
Yessenia Hernandez, 13, also from Highland Junior High, said she’s never done anything like NUBOTS.
“It’s just been lots of fun. I’m glad I had this opportunity.”
And has she found her future career?
“Maybe,” she said, with a big smile.