Local elementary and middle school students had the opportunity to learn more about robotics through a University of Alaska Anchorage and BP Summer Engineering Academy camp, hosted at the Kenai Peninsula College. The camp took Legos — familiar to most kids — and taught them how to program, build and use robots with them.
In the camp, students design, build and program Lego-based tools that they use to problem-solve and compete in several challenges.
“The camp offers a series of week-long, hands-on instructional sessions for students entering grades 3-12 in Anchorage, Matanuska Valley and Kenai,” a press release regarding the program said. “Each academy is designed to encourage interest and provide exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), especially for underrepresented populations.”
In Kenai, the camp took place the week of June 24, and Vicki Nechodomu, the K-12 STEM outreach coordinator at UAA, presided over 24 students and several university engineering students who were there helping out.
“I personally feel like it’s a really good program because you got the mechanical aspect, you’ve got the programming aspect so you got a niche for every kind of engineer,” she said. “Kids at this point are settling into what their specialty is. The summer academies, in general, exposes more kids to STEM concepts.”
One student in the camp, Marshall, said the camp was a good opportunity for kids like him to learn more about robotics.
“I’ve never done robotics, and my mom made me come to this camp, but I’m having fun,” he said.
Another student, Claira, said she was learning new things in the camp, like programming, which she said was her favorite part about the camp.
“I like learning new stuff,” she said. “I like when you get to program the robots and build them.”
Nechodomu said she doesn’t know if the program will be in Kenai next year, as it depends on funds and supply and demand. After working with students in Kenai, she said there seems to be a pretty good demand here.
The camps are made possible through a partnership between the University of Alaska Anchorage’s College of Engineering, the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program and BP. BP’s investment of $280,000 allowed the Lego robotics session to come to the Kenai Peninsula for the first time, this summer.