By the time many elementary school students graduate high school, wrist-watches are expected to have more programming power than the average laptop today.
So says Stenvne Thomas, a training manager with Tamarack Computers, who recently offered his robotics summer camps for a second year. Last Thursday, five students aged 8 to 17, worked under Thomas’s direction to assemble a robot called an MBOT. The little machines were built from a kit and were designed through the computer to be controlled from the keyboard to play soccer, follow a line path or run through a maze. Other exercises included using basic programming to develop video games that similarly involve controlling the behaviour of objects.
Thomas drew 17 students in total this year – all of them youth – which was down from 21 last year.
He hopes to develop a robotics club, either after-school or on weekends, where adults and students can meet and work together on technology.
“It takes a certain mindset,” he says of being devoted to robot building. “Logical thinking, decision-making processes, understanding limitations and engineering a certain amount of mathematics are all attributes you need.”
Chloe Favre, an eight-year-old J.H. Sissons student, was the only girl in one class. She says she practises robotics development at home using her family’s iPad. Still, she says the camp was a challenge.
“I don’t really do robots at school, but mostly at my house,” she says. “It is different from this and it was a little (difficult) for me.”
Thomas says it’s positive to see young female students because this may help ensure they have a strong representation in science, technology, engineering and math fields of the future.
“My classes usually have one to four girls and it is great to see young women coming in to learn and not letting themselves get behind,” he says. “Chloe is a little machine and cranks code and she is often done quicker than the boys. ”
Kyle Stuckless, 14, who’s going into Grade 9, says he entered the camp with little familiarity with robotics. Like other students, he came to the event with minimal understanding of programming language.
“It is a fun camp itself and I have learned quite a fair bit,” Stuckless says. “I haven’t done a robotics course before and this is a lot for me.”