Camper for a day: How I learned to love robots and make model magic

“Today we will: build a robotic hand; build a roving chassis for your robotic prototype; program your partner; study gearations; learn robotic parts; visit the Wiess Energy Hall and build a model magic robot.”

So began my day as a Roving Robot Xplorations camper, when I was greeted by this extensive, exciting to-do list.

All in a day’s work

Between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., I accomplished more as an Xplorations camper than I do on the average workday. (This is not to say I’m not a dedicated worker, but rather a testament to the absurdly energetic, ambitious souls that staff our Summer Camp Program.)

Camper for a Day: Roving Robots

Above is a cleverly crafted robotic hand. Folds demonstrate where joints occur most naturally, and a simple system of drinking straws and string quickly illustrates to the 6 and 7-year-old class [plus this old broad] how human tendons and robotic phalanges can work similarly.

Camper for a Day: Roving Robots

During a break between crafts, we studied how gears interact with this battery-operated board, which spins one gear in the center at varying speeds, allowing students to explore how the gears, direction and speed interact.

Camper for a Day: Roving Robots

Our model magic interlude included this little guy, which reminded me of a cross between Stitch, Wall-E and X-Men’s Cyclops.

Camper for a Day: Roving Robots

The above drawing illustrates the properly labeled parts of a robot in robotic terminology. (It must be noted that my superior 26-year-old hand control did not go unnoticed, nor did the addition of a mustache go unappreciated.)

Camper for a Day: Roving Robots

Perhaps my favorite part of the day was “program your partner,” in which we employed robotic commands to direct our partner to grasp a tennis ball. Only minor chaos ensued.

Camper for a Day: Roving Robots

All in all it was a terrific day, and I was left with something special to remember it by, thanks to this sneaky selfie.

Robo-dogs at the Rally

Here we are, in the 6th week of summer camp.  As the weather is heating up outside, more and more cool things are happening here at the Museum summer camps!  Week 6 heralds the first week of Advanced Robotics camp and the activities could not be more fun.  Building a working electric motor, constructing a rocket robot, and programming Robo-dogs are all part of the excitement! 

Campers are busy programing their robo-dogs to compete in Rally-Obedience training events.  Check out this awesome video of one robo-dog successfully mastering a level in the rally!  Notice the signs at our Rally-O are almost exactly like the real thing!


For those of you who don’t know what Rally-Obedience is, it is a fun and competative team sport for dogs and their human handlers. 

Dog and Handler teams navigate a course with numbered signs indicating different exercises to perform such as Sit-Down-Sit, Straight Figure 8, Send Over Jump, Recall Over Jump. Teams navigate the course at a brisk pace without direction from the judge or any other outsider. Talking to your dog is always encouraged in Rally-O.   Any dogs, purebred, mixed breeds and dogs with disabilities are encouraged to participate.

Check out this next video.  It’s fun to see the campers get so excited when the robot performs exactly as it was programmed.


Check back often for more camp updates!!