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Gear Tech camp deemed successful PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

“I want to be an engineer.” “The future is with robots.” “It would help me with mechanics.” “This will help me with college.” “It will help me in a career.” “It was amazing!” “It was awesome.” “It was fun.”

These are just a few things that students of the Gear Tech 21 robotics and GPS camp had to say about their experience. The second camp offered in northeast Colorado, sponsored by Colorado State University Extension, was held July 9-12 at Phillips County Event Center.

There were 15 youth participants, ages 10-13 from the surrounding areas of Holyoke, Haxtun, Fleming, Julesburg and Otis.

The youth gained skills and experience in using GPS and GIS technology and had tons of fun designing, building and programming Lego NXT robots. They learned and practiced some engineering design principles along with expanding their vocabulary of science terminology and processes.

Emily Atkins from Haxtun and Jair Jimenez from Holyoke work together to build their NXT robot.

Approximately half of each day was devoted to Lego NXT robots as an introduction to the world of robotics. The youth worked in pairs or small groups to build and program the robots to use four sensors, and completed a variety of tasks.

They learned to calibrate light and sound sensors, as well as make their robots speak and react to sounds. The teams learned and experimented with several ways to control the distance the robot travels, and explored two different ways to program the robots to make turns. The final project was to select a challenge course, then design and program their robot to successfully complete the challenge.

Over the course of the week, the youth learned to use the Global Positioning System devices (handheld GPS units) to mark waypoints and tracks as they conducted a survey of the improvements on the Phillips County fairgrounds.

Seven teams were assigned a portion of the fairgrounds to mark and collect information to then create a map and propose plans for improvements if they are warranted. The locations included the RV hookups, benches, walking path, trash cans, entrances and parking, disc golf course and fairground buildings with electrical outlets.

All this information was then downloaded into computers and imported into an online, aerial photography map of Holyoke. The mapping of this information is referred to as Geographical Information Systems, commonly known as GIS mapping.

Austin Kuntz and Kolten Knipp present their GIS map of the disc golf course they made during CSU Extension’s Gear Tech 21 robotics and GPS camp.

The maps that were created could definitely be used to plan an event at the fairgrounds, such as fair, and make using the park area more enjoyable and safe.

Two guest speakers enhanced the GPS and mapping experience for participants by sharing their expertise. First, guest speaker Tim Becker, from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), spoke to the participants about the applications of GPS in the field of agriculture. For instance, Becker explained how GPS can be used to help ranchers locate an appropriate spot to put in water tanks or run water lines.

He then took the kids outside to use the government-issued GPS to locate points. This experience was beneficial for students to see and hear all the opportunities there are for future career interest right around their hometown.

In addition, Brian Kailey, from CSU Extension in Logan County, shared his knowledge about using a compass with participants. Again, participants were able to use current knowledge about direction and mapping and apply it to a useful skill such as finding direction using the traditional compass.

Kailey reiterated the need for being able to navigate, especially since they might not be able to have a handheld GPS with them all the time.

The success of the camp was celebrated and shared with family and friends as the youth presented their GPS-generated maps and robot challenges. After the presentations, everyone relaxed with pride in a job well done as they enjoyed brownie sundaes.

Holyoke Enterprise July 26, 2012