Girls of Steel Robotics has had an action packed summer! After returning home from Washington D.C. for the FIRST NAC Conference (you can read more about our trip here), Girls of Steel began mentoring and running camps and programs across Pittsburgh. Our first camp was from July 5 to July 7 and was in partnership with Gwen’s Girls. Gwen’s Girls is an organization focused on empowering young women in Allegheny county. The Gwen’s Girls campers were split into four groups and came up with creative team names, such as The Blue Jay Queens, The Glitter Girls, KMD Queens, and Team Tigers. Each group built a FTC, or FIRST Tech Challenge, pushbot using the Tetrix kits.
There was lots of laughter and fun (as well as some frustration that can come with building a robot) and overall everyone had lots of fun! By the end of the camp, we had four working robots that raced each other on the classroom floor with all of the girls cheering them on. Here’s a video.
Anja, one of the Girls of Steel mentors at this camp says, “Our experience with Gwen’s Girls was great! I think a lot of the girls really got into building the robots, and everyone learned a lot. (Playing Kahoot was also very popular!) Some girls were a bit hesitant and unsure at the beginning, but every team successfully built a working robot, which is impressive for only 3 days! This camp was a lot of fun for everybody!”
Our next camp was a two day camp, July 11 and July 13, in partnership with Mars Robotics, FTC team 10083. This camp was focused on EV3 programming for FLL, FIRST Lego League, instead of FTC. Both days began by doing some icebreakers and building LEGO EV3 robots. Once the robots were built, the members of the Girls of Steel and Mars Robotics teams taught the students in the camp about programming their robots and introduced the missions from last season’s FLL challenge, Animal Allies. This camp was focused on the robot game, or the coded missions, so nobody did a FLL research project. For the rest of the day, everyone worked on completing the missions on the Animal Allies field. At the end of the day, all of the groups had multiple missions solved and working that they were able to show their parents at pick up time. Anna, a member of FTC 9820/FRC 3504 and a mentor at this camp says, “I had a lot of fun at this camp! The kids loved trying to solve the missions and seeing the missions work by the end of the day was great!” Adrian, a member of FTC 10083 and a mentor at the camp, says, “The GoS FLL camp is an entertaining and engaging experience for anyone that attends and applies themselves.” Becky, a mentor from FTC 10083, says, “GoS team members and mentor Terry Richards generously gave their time and expertise, and shared their equipment this summer to help Mars Robotics FTC team 10083 hold their first ever FLL one day camps! Kids who attended didn’t want to leave at the end of the day! Kids teaching kids was effective AND so much fun! Mars Robotics is hoping to springboard from this collaboration with the GoS to host more workshops to give the kids of the Mars PA area more opportunities to play with FLL robotics and maybe even start some new teams some day. Hydro Dynamics looks really fun and challenging for this coming year! THANK YOU GoS!” It was a great collaboration and we wish Mars Robotics good luck with starting FLL teams. We know they can do it!
The next camp that Girls of Steel mentored at was CMU’s Robotics Feiyue, July 24-August 5. Robotics Feiyue is a program for high school students from China who live at CMU for 2 weeks and learn about robotics through a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) boot camp. In the FRC boot camp, students worked for two weeks in a simulated FRC build season to design, build, and program an FRC robot that they competed with at the Steel City Showdown, Pittsburgh’s first FRC official off-season event. You can read more about the Steel City Showdown here. You can read more about Robotics Feiyue here and here, as well. Mary, a TA at Feiyue from Girls of Steel says, “Feiyue was a fantastic experience because we got to help students from China learn not just about robotics, but about America and teamwork!”.
Our next camp visit was at Winchester Thurston School on August 3rd. We didn’t run any science portions of the camp, but three members of Girls of Steel gave a presentation about Girls of Steel Robotics to a camp for 6th and 7th grade girls. The girls were very interested in Girls of Steel and it was awesome to show our FTC robot, Michelle, to more girls in the community.
Our next to last camp was our 4th annual FLL Skills Camp, August 7-11, 2017, similar to the second camp mentioned above. Five girls mentored at this 5 day 9 am to 3 pm camp of 27 kids. Kids came from all over Pittsburgh and one girl joined us all the way from Guatemala!
Each day started with a brief presentation followed by ice breakers. Then, the kids would either build and program their robots, complete a core values activity, or work on their research project presentation. The kids broke into 3 groups to work on their research projects.
Two robots were built within those three groups. The campers worked hard on completing as many Animal Allies missions as they could in a short period of time while also creating impressive presentations about their research topics for this year’s FLL challenge, Hydro Dynamics. The camp ended with a scrimmage and demos for their parents.
Helen, one of the mentors at this camp says, “I really enjoyed mentoring the students at the FLL Skills Camp. The campers were always engaged and excited to work on their robots and research projects, and to learn more about the robot design and programming process. Having a mini FLL competition at the end of the week was a success, because it gave a concrete goal for the campers to work toward, and it also gave them a taste of what an FLL competition would be like. In the mini FLL competition experience, the campers worked as a team during matches and used their problem solving skills when adjusting their robots in between matches. The campers were great at teamwork and improving their STEM skills through lessons on programming and robot design, as well as practicing presentation skills through research projects. Overall, I think the camp was a good balance of learning and utilizing FLL skills, getting a wider knowledge of STEM, and having fun and bonding as a team.”
Finally, we ended our summer of mentoring camps by volunteering on August 14th at the Pittsburgh Urban Christian School’s advanced robotics camp that uses VEX IQ robot kits. The kit is different from the LEGO robot kit we usually work with, but we were up for the challenge. Preparations for this camp included borrowing a VEX IQ kit of parts and building a kit-bot robot. We really enjoyed learning more about a new robotics kit platform while helping the kids at camp.
We had so much fun running camps and programs this summer. Next up, 2018 preseason!