Robotics hosts third STEM workshop


Fifty elementary school kids swarmed around the lunch tables to see Milky White, the robotic cow made by the Robotics team last year. Meanwhile, Hayden Beams (11) stood off to the side using Arduino C, a programming software, on his iPhone in order  to control the cow’s movements.

“Milky is a robot, so this just gets the kids interested in robots and science and gives them an insight on what it’s all about,” Beams said. “We show them how the programming of the cow allows us to control its movements.”

The goal was to teach students in grades 2-8 about different fields of STEM and to give them early exposure to coding and other aspects of Robotics. Andy Alawani (11) said that it is important for kids to have experience with these subjects no matter what field they will go into professionally.

“We’re just trying to help the younger kids in our community become accustomed  to STEM subjects,” Alawani said. “We hope they’ll be the future of  our robotics program but we really just want to show them the stuff that we do here.”

Robotics had been planning its second STEM workshop for young students since the success of their first one in fall 2016. Originally, they had planned for two workshops: one in the fall and the other in the spring, but with the influx of students signing up, Robotics pushed for a second fall event. In order to teach the different aspects of STEM, the Robotics team set up four different activities. Dylan Santora (11) and Ethan Foss (11) led DIY Derby, where students made their own cars out of blocks of wood and then raced them down inclines in order to learn about velocity and physics.

“We show them how to make certain cuts to make the car a little more aerodynamic, so that it can travel faster and gain more velocity over time,” Santora said. “At the end, when everyone has completed building their cars, they’re going to race it down a ledge and see which one is the fastest using a speedometer. ”

Arvind Krishnan (11) and Divya Jain (9) lead Curious Innovations, the second event, which had three main activities. Students in the first activity built their own paper rockets and launched them in the quad using a soda bottle. Other students learned how to use Tinkercad, a simple version of computer-assisted design, to create different projects such as computer-designed houses and cars. The third activity allowed students to use Spheres, which are circular robots that they can drive with an electronic device.

In the third event, Maze Runner, lead by Ronak Shah (12) and Nir Levin (12), students learned how to code a small robot and guide it through a maze. Sarthak Madan (11) worked one-on-one with the kids in order to explain how to use the programming software .

“The little bots are made out of “First Tech Competition” parts, and what the students do is they use Arduino C and Arduino D robots in order for the bots to get through the maze,” Madan said. “I made sure the students learned Arduino C and how to control the robot, as well as [how to] use [an] ultrasonic sensor to navigate the maze.”

By putting on the workshop, Robotics President Jamie Geng (12)  said she hopes to inspire a new generation of Robotics members. According to Geng, there are many different fields within the Robotics program that give students valuable skills.

“So in addition to mechanical, we have systems and control who code the robot’s motion,” Geng said. “We have computer vision. They give the robot its eyes with our little cameras. We also have business, which sort of runs all of the grant writing, the sponsor invitations, and event planning. Electrical does wires, all the things like that, and then research and development develops new products for us and then we figure out how to use them.”

Santora also said he hopes that the skills students acquire in Robotics programs can be used for their future careers as well.

“I feel like STEM has a lot of opportunity and is growing at very fast rate,” Santora said. “Knowing a lot about STEM can help these students when looking for jobs in the future.”