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Robotics camp inspires love of coding

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LEARN: Francis Bougher and Braiden Wolfe practice programming a robot at Manchester University.
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STEM: Manchester University computer science professor Robin Mitchell teaches students how to program robots to perform tasks. His hope is that participants leave inspired to pursue a career in STEM.
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CODE: Student Bailey Wolfe learns the craft of coding while attending Manchester University’s summer robotics camp.

by HEATHER COX - hcox@wabashplaindealer.com

NORTH MANCHESTER — Manchester University is working toward improving kids’ critical thinking skills through hosting its third annual robotics camp on the North Manchester campus.

This year’s educational summer camp is taking place from 9 a.m. to noon June 11-15 at the university’s science center.

Six  students between grades 6-8 are participating this year, led by computer science professor Robin Mitchell.

Camp started Monday morning with a talk about what robotics is and how robots interact with the environment around them, Mitchell explained.

Students will learn how to simulate an autonomous car parallel parking. That means cars must avoid obstacles and maintain distance from walls.

Mitchell also plans to introduce something to his campers this year that he hasn’t done in the past.

“One of the things I’m going to try with this camp ... is you can put the light sensor to just sense color or it can sense ambient light,” he said. “And I’m going to mark off an area and have them find the darkest spot in the area and remember where that dark spot is and go back to it. This will be a really difficult problem, I’ve not tried this with campers before.”

In addition to wanting to introduce students to critical thinking and problem solving, Mitchell says he wants to teach students how to solve problems through programming. His hope is that students are inspired to pursue studies in STEM-related fields.

Some participants have already expressed interest in pursuing a STEM career.

“One student wants to be a biomedical engineer,” Mitchell said. “And these are all big dreams, and I think that we often try to temper kids’ dreams, (but) we should let them have big dreams.”

Another benefit for Manchester: Alexis Young, senior director of auxiliary services on campus, says the camp exposes students to Manchester University’s campus.

But most of all, Mitchell hopes students walk away with an appreciation for the work that goes into creating and programming robots.