Robots take over SM Discovery Museum

Posted in: Santa Maria Times, Science, STEAM, STEM
July 31, 2015 2:00 am  • 

Orcutt Academy senior Briseida Colores, right, helps Frida Veda, 8, reprogram a robot Thursday during Robotics 101 taught by the Orcutt Academy High School Robotics club at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum. Daniel Dreifuss, Staff

Tensions ran high Thursday afternoon as J.D. Collier, 9, and Aiden Lombard, 12, put the finishing touches on their small LEGO robots at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum.

J.D., on Team Knights with “Robot Mace,” and Aiden, on Team Shockers with an unnamed robot, were both preparing for a competition today after a five-day Robotics 101 Camp at the museum.

Discovery Museum Program Assistant and former Orcutt Academy High School Spartatroniks Robotics team member Charlie Miller, along with five other retired and current members of the team, have been leading the camp, teaching participants how to design, build and program robotic LEGO prototypes.

“The first day we taught them about robots, engineering, and designing,” Miller explained. “The second day was faster and an introduction to programming. Every day since we have been hitting the ground running and building our own robots for the competition.”

Today’s competition will test each team’s robot programming and is based on how many tasks the robots correctly perform in a two minute and 30 second time frame.

Each robot has been built for the main event with a color sensor that serves as its eyes — in order to ensure it goes in the right direction — and a variety of different attachments to throw balls and pick up circular markers. In addition, a brick center that is plugged into a computer acts as the brain of the robot.

Additionally, each team picked which attachments they wanted to build based on which tasks they wanted to perform on competition day.

Team Knights, for example, chose to attach a front-end black catapult to launch balls into a mini-goal.

“Building our robot was the funnest part,” J.D. said, showing off his two accessories built out of leftover LEGOs — a small mace and Team Knight’s headband.

On the other hand, Team Lightening Race with their robot “Robotics Masterpiece” chose to build a shield in addition to a catapult — a unique feature of the competition.

“I loved everything about this,” 8-year old Izel Lopez exclaimed. “My favorite part, though, was making the main part of the robot.”

The goal of the first collaboration between Spartatroniks and the museum is to promote a positive learning environment for young local students, said Amy Asman Blasco, program director at the museum, and Ty Fredriks, OAHS Spartatroniks club leader and teacher.

Blasco focused on how the robotics camp has been preparing students for the real world.

“It teaches them problem solving,” Blasco explained. “They have been learning to work as a team to solve complex problems, and they can apply it to everyday life — both in school and personally.”

Fredriks is interested in the exposure it gives students to science and math, two fields that many children often do not get much experience with in their younger years.

“It is exposing kids to the true engineering process,” he explained. “It gives them eye opening experiences — they may not have known what engineering is before.”

“We’re out to change kids’ lives,” he continued. “We want them to understand that engineering is a career that can be fulfilling, challenging, and within their grasp — that’s the fun part about this.”

The rival teams will be setting off their robots at 3 p.m. today at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum.

For more information, call 928-8414.

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