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Published: Monday, 8/5/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Robotics camp mentors youths

Bedford event fosters love for engineering

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
George Kretschmer, 9, programs a robot at the Bedford robotics camp at the old Smith Road Elementary in Temperance. About 30 students from the Bedford district designed and programmed robots. George Kretschmer, 9, programs a robot at the Bedford robotics camp at the old Smith Road Elementary in Temperance. About 30 students from the Bedford district designed and programmed robots.
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TEMPERANCE — Dianna Dohm is into robotics in a big way, and last week the Bedford High School senior could be found at the school district’s robotics center instilling her passion for the field in younger students as a mentor and instructor.

The occasion was the second annual Bedford Express Robotics Camp in the former Smith Road Elementary building. The weeklong camp attracted 30 students, most of them from the Bedford district, who spent five days designing, programming, and just thinking about robots and their potential.

Dianna, 16, said said she loved every minute of her volunteered time at the camp, working with kindergartners through eighth graders.

“We’re trying to get more of them to go into engineering,” she said. “Engineering isn’t always the top choice for a career. But if you start them off on it when they’re younger, they fall in love with it. It’s a very good career to get into. We want to teach them the work habits they’ll need to do that.”

She said she doesn’t try to steer students to any particular field. “Any STEM career [science, technology, engineering, and math] they want to do, we love,” she added.

Overseeing the camp was Debbie May, who coaches Bedford Express, the high school’s robotics team, and teaches math at the junior high. But she sat back and provided the adult supervision from a distance. She wanted the volunteers from her team to do the interacting with the campers.

Bedford is the only Monroe County district that offers F.I.R.S.T. robotics — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — to all grade levels, kindergarten through high school.

Austin Dazley, left, 13, ‘gives five' to Dianna Dohm, 16, a Bedford senior, as they and Nick Staley, 12, get their robot to perform a task during the Bedford robotics camp. Dianna was a student volunteer. Austin Dazley, left, 13, ‘gives five' to Dianna Dohm, 16, a Bedford senior, as they and Nick Staley, 12, get their robot to perform a task during the Bedford robotics camp. Dianna was a student volunteer.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The camp’s $100 fee helps defray expenses for the district's robotics programs, which are housed in the gym at the Smith Road building. The district provides rent-free space but no financial support.

Ms. May’s team qualified for the F.I.R.S.T. worldwide robotics championships three years in a row. She said she plans to use money left over from the camp to fund robotics programs for students in all grade levels through eighth. Last year the surplus money was used for the program for first through third graders.

“This year we want to have an all-girls team in grades four to six,” she said.

She’s also looking for a sponsor to buy the naming rights to the robotics room, which is the former school’s gym.

The campers included John Roberts, a fourth grader at Sylvan Elementary in Sylvania.

He had built a small robot with an arm that could be raised and lowered, and he wondered if a life-size version could be built to douse forest fires.

“I’ve been researching forest fires,” he said. “Lightning is the biggest cause.”

A big problem for a robot, he said, would be finding a water supply: “It could come from a stream, maybe.”



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