U.Va. Robotics Camp Introduces Local Middle Schoolers to Engineering

July 11, 2011 — Area middle school students are becoming systems engineers this week.

The youths are programming robots to navigate a mock urban environment and create art as part of fifth annual Systems Robotics Design Camp at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science. More than 20 students are attending the camp, which concludes July 15.

"This camp brings systems engineering concepts to life with robotics," said Reid Bailey, camp director and assistant professor in the Department of Systems and Information Engineering. "Robotics is a fun way to get young students excited about science, technology, engineering and math fields. We emphasize reaching kids who may have never considered engineering as an education or career path."

U.Va. Engineering School faculty and students teach the campers technical robotics concepts and campers then quickly apply the concepts to building functional robots.

The campers will solve real problems, such as programming robots that can navigate streets of a model city. They will create "robot art" and investigate how complex patterns can emerge from a small set of simple rules. Students will also engage their robots in a lively soccer match at the end of the week.

"These young students gain a better understanding of what it means to be an engineer," Bailey said. "Hopefully they can see themselves as the world's next engineers and begin working toward that goal."

Northrop Grumman funds scholarships that make the camp accessible to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

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