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Robotics camp puts future in kids' hands Print E-mail

For those who fear robots will someday steal our jobs and take over the world, this camp is not for you.

But for the 30 or so Middle Tennessee students learning this week how to wire, craft and create robots using only a few tools, the Lipscomb University Robotics Camp is a gadget guru's paradise.

"Robotics is cool," said Amelia Hamrick, 13, a David Lipscomb High School student and the lone female camper. "It's kinda fun to see something you made roll around on the floor."

The five-day camp was created by fellow robot enthusiast and David Lipscomb High student Bryan Reasonover as a project to earn his Eagle Scout designation. Reasonover chose to organize a robotics camp because he wanted students of all ages to see what it feels like to build a functioning machine.

"When I grew up, I didn't have an experience like this," said Reasonover, 17. "For them to be able to come at this early an age is an experience that is amazing. The first time you put a robot together and see it move forward and backwards, it's great."

Robots will compete

During the first few days of the camp, the students — who range in age from 11 to 16 — learn the basics of electricity, mechanics and safety. The hands-on work begins midweek, when students use tools and a soldering knife to build a robot prototype.

The activities all lead up to the end of the week, when students build an individual robot and a team robot with a movable arm to compete on an obstacle course.

But learning to make things roll, blink and beep is only the superficial purpose of the camp. Professors at Lipscomb University, who stepped up to teach the courses, say outreach programs like these are essential to getting young students interested in engineering.

"There's a big problem in engineering these days, and that is that enrollments are low," said Greg Nordstrom, associate professor of engineering at Lipscomb and the camp's lead instructor. "Students are not seeing the connection between what engineers do and the world around them. (At camp) the lights come on. They see the connection. It's fun and they're around other kids who think it is fun, so it's OK to give the right answer."

Camp open to all

All students were eligible to attend the camp, and slots were filled on a first-come, first-served basis. The cost was $25 per student to go toward supplies, organizers said.

Maryland native Alex Wilson jumped at the opportunity to attend the camp while visiting his grandmother in Murfreesboro.

"I guess I just wanted to see something I made with my own two hands," said Wilson, 16. "It's been a great experience, and I've gotten to meet a lot of interesting people."

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