When most families were celebrating the holidays at home, the Penn High School Robotics lab was bustling with activity on December 27th and 28th as children traveled throughout St. Joseph County to attend Team 135’s annual Winter Workshops. Much like our Summer Camps, 2018’s Winter Workshops brought elementary and middle school students into the world of industrial technology. For two consecutive mornings, students were exposed to both the hardware and software aspects of manufacturing as seen in the industry through our Applied Camps. With a high number of participants, we split our campers into two groups; the first group was focused on CAD (computer-aided design) while the other camp focused on learning about CNC (computer numerically controlled) machinery to translate the first camp’s designs into real-world results that children could bring home.
The project that the students did consist of several gears built on top of a base plate. The CAD camp designed custom gears in Autodesk Inventor with the help of Robotics Students. Throughout this process, the CNC camp manufactured the base plate on bandsaws. Afterward, the two camps merged as the students, with the help of mentors, used the laser engraver to cut out their custom gears. Overall, we were very excited to give future technology students, and potential robotics members, an in-depth tour of our lab, our classroom, and the processes that are used in each room.
The Winter Workshops were not only a learning experience for the children attending the camps but a huge opportunity for our own robotics students to practice their presentation, teaching, and public speaking skills. We observed that our own members learned just as much as the children attending the Workshops.
Approximately 13 first through third graders had a lot of fun learning about simple machines and problem solving in our creative workshops. Their goal was to create a Rube Goldberg machine that would carry a 3D printed egg from a height of three feet to the ground using K’Nex onto the other side of the platform. In addition, we did a robot demonstration to show what our program entails, hoping to inspire future STEM learners and spark an interest in robotics. This annual event gives a group of kids a chance to dive into engineering in the form of a game. They are also given the chance to practice working as a team to complete a task in a more efficient manor. This event furthered their knowledge of simple machines and sharpened their problem solving skills. Using teamwork in groups of two to three, the kids created six successful structures to transport the eggs to the ground.