Students check out functions of one of the VEX robots used during the summer robotics workshop. (NASA / Cecilia Cordova)
About 60 fourth-through-eighth-grade students from elementary and middle schools in the Lancaster and Palmdale area of Southern California were immersed in a hands-on engineering experience recently at a week-long robotics workshop at Joe Walker Middle School in Quartz Hill.
Mentored by members of local high school robotics teams, the younger students learned what to do, how to best do it and how to work together during the workshop, which culminated in a final competition on the event's final day.
During the final "STEM Wars" game, students divided into 10 teams directed their remote-controlled wheeled robots built from VEX robot kits through their paces, gathering up small rubber balls and pushing, carrying or channeling them from one side of the playing field set up in the school's multi-purpose room to the other. The game was named for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math disciplines that the workshop encouraged students to pursue.
The students designed their own robots from the assortment of wheels, motors, gears, controllers and other parts contained in the commercial robot kits.
The summer robotics workshop was co-sponsored by the education department at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, the AERO Institute in Palmdale, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and other organizations. The workshop was largely organized and mentored by members of the Lancaster High Eagle Robotics, Antelope Valley High Robolopes, Quartz Hill High Robo Rebs, SOAR Academy's Bot squad and two independent robotics teams, PHI Robotics and the Garagebots.