The Lock Haven University computer science faculty recently held a weeklong Robotics Camp for middle school students from July 30 to August 3 at the Annie Halenbake Ross Library in Lock Haven. Students from Keystone Central School District took part in the camp that provided hands-on experience in building and programming simple functional robots.
The Robotics Camp was a joint effort by Lock Haven University, the Annie Halebake Ross Library, and Penn State Extension’s Clinton County 4-H program. Ross Library provided the LEGO EV3 robots and facilities, and LHU and the 4-H program provided the instructional resources to make the workshop possible.
As an introduction to problem solving, teams designed robots and programmed them to complete specific challenges. The projects focused on basic experiments that simulate driverless cars. Autonomous Vehicle Research is a rapidly growing area with a promising future.
The first challenge involved building and programming a bumper car that would avoid colliding with obstacles using ultrasonic sensors. The second challenge involved line-following using color sensors, and robots were timed to see how quickly they could do laps around a racing track marked out with tape. Participants learned the principles of sensors, and various attributes of motor control in a fun and thought-provoking way.
The final challenge was a sumo wrestling contest, that brought various skills together. The objective of the match was to push the opponent’s robot out of the sumo circle marked in red tape without over-stepping the boundary of the circle. The participants came up with brilliant designs and refined and modified their robots to make them more effective on the mat.
The activities were designed and taught by Dr. Krish Pillai, LHU associate professor of computer science. LHU teaching assistants Shaun Donohue and Assunta DeSanto, and Molly Hensley of Penn State University helped with the instruction.
The university plans to provide the camp to the Lock Haven community every summer by continuing to partner with the Ross Library and Penn State Extension’s 4-H program. The camp is designed to provide participants with a unique perspective on computer science. Participants also receive an introduction to what it would be like to pursue a college major and a career in computer science. Modern industry has a need for a workforce that can build and instruct machines to do certain traditional, and possibly hazardous jobs faster and better than humans, making computer science and robotics an indispensable part of the future.
The university currently has a Robotics Club and offers courses in artificial intelligence and machine learning at the undergraduate level, including opportunities for independent study in this area.
For more information, contact Pillai at email@example.com or 570-484-2346, Tammy Garrison at the Ross Library at firstname.lastname@example.org or 570-748-3321, or Kirsten Dubbs at Penn State Extension in Clinton County at email@example.com or 570-726-0022.
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Lock Haven University is a member of Pennsylvania’s State System, the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth. Its 14 universities offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas of study. Nearly 520,000 system alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.
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