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Published: Monday, 7/15/2013

Robotics camp becomes automated success story

Monroe County program set as annual event

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Enzo Mignano, 9, left, Monroe, cheers as he and Erik Seitz, 10, also of Monroe, watch their robot move a block to plug a dam at the Intermediate School District’s robotics camp in Monroe. Enzo Mignano, 9, left, Monroe, cheers as he and Erik Seitz, 10, also of Monroe, watch their robot move a block to plug a dam at the Intermediate School District’s robotics camp in Monroe.
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MONROE — The Monroe County Intermediate School District’s summer robotics camp is a roaring success and will become an annual program, officials said.

“This is the first year we have offered the camp. We’re having it for four weeks, and we could fill it for four more if we wanted to,” said Stephen McNew, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

The camp is open to any students in Monroe County. Participants attend from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m Monday through Thursday and on Fridays take a field trip to see how real robots are used in business.

“They get to play with real robots, not just the ones they build,” Mr. McNew said.

The $79 cost of the camp includes lunch every day and a T-shirt. This is the camp’s third week. Next week is the final week.

The instructor, Debbie May, is an experienced hand at robotics. She coaches Bedford High School’s robotics team and teaches math at Bedford Junior High. Bedford Express, her high school team, qualified for the F.I.R.S.T. — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — worldwide robotics championship three years in a row.

Bedford is the only district in Monroe County with robotics programs for all grades, including kindergarten, she said. For her, the camp was a chance to spread the word and “get more programs going. We’d like to see all districts in Monroe County get them. There is grant money available, and I will be happy to help.”

Mr. McNew said a goal is “to get kids involved in robotics at a younger age. We don’t have the skilled work force in this area for manufacturing and industry.”

The first week of camp was for boys and girls in grades three to eight. Week two is for boys in those same grades, and week three is coed for children in those grades. Week four is for high school students.

Campers use LEGO Mindstorm robotics set to build miniature robots that perform functions such as pushing, lifting, and transporting.

Bedford Express member Stacee Dohm, 14, volunteers as a camp mentor and said she has enjoyed introducing youngsters to robotics. “It’s something new for them. A lot of the kids have never done any robotics because their schools don't offer them. They get really excited,” said Stacee, who lives in Lambertville.

Nick Slat, an eighth grader at Monroe Middle School, helped build a robot with an arm that drops and picks up a trash receptacle. “It was a lot of work and a lot of fun,” he said.

The Bedford district will have its own robotics camp for grade school children from July 29 to Aug. 2. Students from anywhere are welcome, Ms. May said. An application form and more information are at bedfordrobotics.com.



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