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.

Are you craftier than a fifth-grader? For me, the answer was no: Xplorations from the inside

You’ve heard of our Xplorations Summer Camps — the sell-out science fests that bring thousands of kids to HMNS each summer. You probably know registration deadlines, details of the camp catalog and maybe even the peak times for carpool. But do you know what an average day in the life of a camper looks like?

I do, thanks to our camp organizers. And I’ve got the pictures to prove it:

photoI arrived at Earth’s Wild Ride on a “Thirsty Thursday,” during which each camper was required to list their favorite beverage on their name tag as a means to get to know one another. I kept it honest — but PG.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper. We kicked the day off with a book about the arctic landscape, in keeping with the day’s cold theme, and followed it up by practicing our seal sounds.

Next up, it was craft time.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper. Each camper constructed an arctic landscape using construction paper, Styrofoam, imagination, and a little bit of magic also known as instant snow.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper. (The material, which expands when it comes into contact with water, lost some of its allure when it was also revealed as the filling of choice for most diapers.)

We followed that craft up with another in the form of a faux glacier, which we filled with assorted sizes of rocks. These would be melted later with a hair dryer (the classroom method for modeling accelerated climate change) to study the erratics, or rock deposits, left by melting, retreating ice.

Lunchtime provided the perfect fodder for my weekly #throwbackthursday post on Instagram, courtesy of Bill Nye the Science Guy on DVD.

After we’d snacked sufficiently, the class headed to the Giant Screen Theatre for a spectacular 3D screening of Titans of the Ice Age.

Post-theater we were out in the open, out-of-doors, for a geyser demonstration. With the help of some studly pink safety goggles, Mentos and a liter of carbonated beverage, Mr. Colin was able to convey the physics behind these geological gushers.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper. Back in the classroom, we met two ingenious Ecoteens for a physics demonstration. Here, we explore how durable a nose is your center of gravity:

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper. As if our day weren’t full enough, we concluded with the creation of an incredible edible: snowflakes crafted with mini marshmallows and toothpicks. Can you tell which of these belongs to a 26-year-old and which belongs to somebody who can count their age on one finger?

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper.

Inside Xplorations: A day in the life of a camper.

I’ll never tell.

Are you ready for this? Public registration for Xplorations Summer Camp begins Monday!

Set your alarm and ready your clicking fingers: Public registration for our sell-out Xplorations Summer Camps begins Monday, March 25!

Thank you, Summer Campers!

Whether you’re a first-time camp family or Xplorations veterans, you’ll find something new and exciting in this year’s catalog. Each week-long, interactive class features before-camp and after-camp care to make shuttling the kiddos as convenient as possible. Choose from a variety of topics ranging from paleontology to robotics to chemistry and so much more.

To peruse the full catalog of camps and get started on registration, click here. Decide early and be ready when Monday rolls around; these camps will sell out!

March 4th and conquer: Camp, that is! Family level member registration for Xplorations Summer Camps opens Monday

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: We’re gearing up for our Xplorations Summer Camps, and online registration for Family level museum members starts Monday, March 4 at 12:01 a.m.

That’s right. It’s like Black Friday, except replace the rock-bottom deals on televisions with crazy-awesome intensive science camps. And it’s on a Monday. So, let’s say, Fuschia Monday — perhaps even with confetti.

Thank you, Summer Campers!For those of you who might be unfamiliar, our week-long educational camps run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (with before and after-camp care also available for an additional fee) and cover science topics ranging from physics to robotics to understanding the universe in interactive classes tailored for kids ages 6 through 12.

Camps do sell out, so we recommend checking out our full catalog in advance here, and having your picks ready once the witching hour rolls around.

Camps are available at both the HMNS Main and HMNS Sugar Land locations throughout the summer; for a full schedule at both locations, click here.