Robots Rock


Creations from this week\'s Rockin\' Robots class! Robots are amazing! Some make you milkshakes, some help you clean your house, some even entertain us (as if drinking a milkshake while cleaning your house was not entertaining enough) and as we have found at Xplorations Camp this summer, kids love robots.

The kiddos in Rockin’ Robots camp this week have had the chance to learn what a robot is: they program some really adorable bee-bots to travel around, they make some fun robot crafts and even practice moving like a robot for the robot sing-a-long at the end of the week.

As kids get older, they can come back each year for more robot excitement in Roving Robots for 6 and 7 year olds and then RoboLab and Battlebots for 8-12 year olds and we even have an Advanced Robotics class for those who are excited about more in-depth programming.

Kids come up with all sorts of cool things robots could help us with – a favorite has been the robot who does homework and makes root beer floats.  My cousin visited earlier this summer for a week of camp and was the grand champion of her Battlebots Friday Battle. It is so much fun to check out these camps as the weeks go by – great to see kids enthusiastic about building and exploring and making things go – a great start for our future engineersMy cousin, Grace Caroline, preparing her champion robot for battle!

Just in case you were wondering – Merriam Webster defines a robot as follows:

1 a: a machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (as walking or talking) of a human beingalso : a similar but fictional machine whose lack of capacity for human emotions is often emphasized b: an efficient insensitive person who functions automatically2: a device that automatically performs complicated often repetitive tasks3: a mechanism guided by automatic controls

Just as an update on my last post, the coolest thing I bought for camps this week – by far – is the Pitcher Plant I got at Whole Foods. The Parasites and Predators camp will study it when they learn about carnivorous plants. The grossest thing that’s been in the fridge lately is probably the pans of “gross krispies” – our yucky rock-, bean- and shell-filled version of rice krispies treats that smell like delicious, real rice krispies but are filled with things you know you can’t eat. 

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!!

Solar Grasshoppers and Robogirls

Things are sure heating up as we head into week 5 of Xplorations Summer Science Adventures, otherwise known as summer camp, here at the Musuem.  It’s so exciting to have the energy of over 400 kids a day buzzing around you.  It’s awesome to see their creativity and excitement as they delve into their science projects.

I got jazzed when I read about the robotic grasshopper in “Science Friday” last week.  It just so happens that some of the campers at the Museum make a grasshopper “robot” of sorts in our Roving Robots camp for 6 and 7 year olds.  Our tiny “robot” works on solar power and he never stops shaking!  Check out the video.

This is just one of the many projects they make in their fun filled week at camp.  They also build circuits, experiment with gears and motors, and even program a special robot that looks like a bee!

Speaking of robots, check out the cool robo-girls in the next video.  The Museum loves its science girls.  They have programed their NXT Mindstorms robot to do all sorts of cool things.
In this video they are testing their robot to see if it can follow a thick black line using a light sensor.  They will then go back and make corrections to the program and try again.  I love seeing more and more girls sign up for our robotics and engineering classes.  We have to give those boys a run for their money!

Check back to see more exciting stuff that goes on at camp.  There is never a dull moment here!  I would also love to hear ideas for new and super cool summer camps.  Give me your 2 cents.  What should our next summer camp topic be?

Tomorrow’s scientists are giggling about sheep eyeballs today

Soon, the most talented and gifted future scientists from around the world will be gathering for a very special week at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.  It is slated to be the largest ever gathering of teenage researchers. 

These children are among the most motivated science students that the world has to offer.  They will come together to share their research on such topics as climate, disease, and pollution.  The conference is put on by GLOBE, a worldwide science and education program operated in part by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

Here at the Houston Museum of Natural Science we have some of the world’s most talented future scientists as well.  During the eleven weeks of camp offered at the Museum and its satellite facilities, child scientists participate in such varied topics as robotics, chemistry, physics, biology, and anthropology, just to name a few.

This week we have robotics technicians working on programing robots in the Robo-Lab and they will even construct their own “battlebot” from a remote control car and recycled items (the Museum kid scientist always is thinking of the environment).  Friday, these experts will put their new skills to the test in different contests designed to let them flex their newly aquired skill-sets.  

Just up the hallway from our robotics experts, we have a class of up and coming science magicians in Super Science Magic class.  Here, they discover that magic is science in disguise.  They practice science magic showmanship as they learn to wow crowds with magic performed with an understanding of physics and chemistry concepts.  They also learn a thing or two about legerdemain (French for slight of hand).  On Friday, the young magicians have a magic show to amaze and thrill their families.

If you continue along the hallway, you will come upon the Photo Safari class, where the children learn how  a camera operates by dissecting a sheep’s eyeball and building their own pinhole camera to take pictures that are developed in class using real photographic chemicals.  In an age of digital photography the art and science of developing your own prints is fast becoming a lost science, but we are keeping that science alive by inspiring a new generation of scientists/artists. 

These are only three of the many, many classes that are offered to excite children about science.  As you can see from the videos, science can excite as well as enrich childrens’ lives.  Check back throughout the summer for more super summer camp updates.