The Technology Day Camp is a multi-day summer day camp that is still put on by the Center for Distributed Robotics at the University of Minnesota for local middle-school students to explore the wonders of technology, robotics, and college in general. The target audience is kids from underprivileged backgrounds, and the camp is free for the children that attend, and includes breakfast and lunch.
The purpose of the camp is to get kids that might not otherwise enter into computer science to consider it a possibility when they start to whittle down their potential careers. The hope is that the camp activities and interaction with graduate student volunteers will demystify computer science for the kids and expose them to a collegiate atmosphere, so that they will consider enrolling in a computer science program when they reach college age.
I co-ran the program in the summers of 2008 and 2009 with fellow graduate student Duc Fehr. These years marked the fourth and fifth years that the lab put on the day camp, and we successfully expanded the program to multiple weeks so that more kids could benefit. The camp was originally started by graduate student Kelly Cannon.
The following are the primary activities the kids got to do when I was running the program:
- Tour fun and exciting labs on campus.
- Program a computer using Alice.
- Build a robot bug that seeks out light, which the kids then got to take home.
- Program the Sony Aibo robot dogs to dance.
- Participate in the “Robot Olympics” using the Scout robots.
- K. Cannon, M. A. LaPoint, N. Bird, K. Panciera, H. Veeraraghavan, N. Papanikolopoulos, and M. Gini, “Using Robots to Raise Interest in Technology Among Underrepresented Groups,” IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, vol. 2, no. 99, pp. 2-11, 2007.
- K. Cannon, M. A. LaPoint, N. Bird, K. Panciera, H. Veeraraghavan, and N. Papanikolopoulos, “No Fear: University of Minnesota Robotics Day Camp Introduces Local Youth to Hands-On Technologies,” Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 363-368, May 2006.