"STEM"ulating: Students learn about technology, automotive industries at camp

By Staff
Haley Aaron, Hartselle Enquirer
It may resemble an I-pod on wheels, but the NX-T Robot can sense distance, touch and light and be programmed to perform a wide array of tasks. Over the course of a two-week camp hosted at Wallace State Community College, 25 students from across central Alabama not only had the chance to build, program, and test their own robots, but also learned about career opportunities in technological fields.
STEM camp participants learned about science, technology, engineering and mathematics by participating in hands-on projects, such as building and programming robots and touring plants.
Learning how to program the NX-T robot was a major part of the camp. During the first week of the camp, participants learned how to program robots by using mathematical measurements and various computer programs to command their robots to perform specific tasks such as knocking a ball into a cup.
After learning the basics of how to program the robots, participants were able to apply what they had learned and program their robots to perform more complex tasks. Students were split into teams and utilized what they had learned to create unique robots which they demonstrated to the other teams.
"The first week was just learning what to do, and how to do things," said Danville High School senior and camp participant Jake Mahathy.
"The second week, it was doing the best with what you've learned, and we've just been playing around with it and making it do what we can, what we know."
On the last day of the camp, the team's robots were put to the test. A few robots battled on the classroom floor in front of onlookers and other robots performed a wide range of activities. "Some of us, like those guys over there, turned it into robot wars, others have just used it to wow people, and I've used mine to make people laugh," explained Mahathy. "I've had mine chase people around and stuff like that."
When not programming robots, participants toured several manufacturing plants across the state, including Rehau and Topre in Cullman, International Diesel in Huntsville and the Hyundai plant in Montgomery. "We try to expose them to different technical programs and go into the field and see the different plants so they can see how the technology is actually used," said program director Joe Hendrix.
"The goal of the camp was to introduce students to the automotive and manufacturing industries," said Hendrix.
In addition to visiting plants and watching technology in action, possible majors and jobs in technical and automotive were discussed with the participants.
Many participants, including Mahathy, have become more interested in the industries after participating in the camp. "I'm defiantly more focused toward a technical field now," he said. "I was going to major in psychology, but this has kind of made me think."
Students were nominated by their high school teachers, and students were chosen to participate in this program based on grades in their math and science classes.
The Consortium for Alabama Regional Center for Automotive Manufacturing, (CARCAM) sponsors the program, which will be offered again… Along with Wallace, three other Alabama colleges received a grant to host the camp: Gadsden State Community College, Jefferson State Community College and Trenholm State Technical College.

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