2015 Fall Camp Eureka Blog! [complete]

This is the Blog for the 2015 Fall Camp Eureka. Currently includes Day 1 [10/5], Day 2 [10/6], Day 3 [10/7], Day 4 [10/8], and Day 5 [10/9]. Please enjoy! 

Day 1 [10/5]; Introductions

Today was the first day in the Fall break Camp Eureka, a week long robotics workshop for youth ages 8-12. We kicked off the day with self introductions from both mentors and students. We immediately jumped into robot building as groups formed and decided how they should tackle the list of challenges we gave them.

Challenges are the theme of this camp as the goal is to familiarize students with different concepts and applications of robotics. Roborace, sumo bots, and the maze were all completed, to name a few, by a number of groups. A full outlook on the curriculum as well as challenge list can be found here. We’re extremely proud that the students remained so enthusiastic even when they did not succeed at first. Their willingness to experiment and improve are very admirable.

Some things were to be improved upon though. Certain challenges were too hard or too easy. Seeing as this is the first camp where we are allowing the students freedom to complete missions as they see fit, tweaking and adjusting the difficulty is imperative to ensuring students are challenged and not stumped or frustrated.


Day 2 [10/6]; Working hard and playing hard

Students had the entirety of today’s session to work on completing their projects. With a variety of activities to do, students have the freedom to choose whichever they feel is worthwhile spending time on.

Currently, the most popular challenge has been to build a sumo bot. The idea is that your robot must push the other robot out of a circle before it does that to you. Matches are the most competitive activities in camp, keeping the kids coming back to the ring again and again. Winning in sumo requires your robot to have a greater weight than the other, and have enough torque to push it out. This means that there are many ways to improve upon a sumo bot. It is so popular, mentors were questioning whether the mission was challenging enough to warrant the amount of time groups were spending on it! To balance this issue, the mentor bot, slated to be the original robot to defeat of the challenge, was souped up. It got 2 additional motors and walls all around it, earning it the name Bento Box. Currently, no group has won against it in a match!

Another challenge that has been on the rise in popularity is the Dungeon Programmer mission. This one tasks students with completing the introductory lessons of Code Combat, an exciting online resource that teaches programming logic and syntax in a fresh way  – like a game. Many students have discovered the fun of playing it and as a result have easily passed the required levels, going on to finish many additional ones. Programming is something that hasn’t really been touched on in camps, as coding to directly control robots seemed to be the only way to go about teaching students. This makes Code Combat something of interest, and excellent for exposing students, and even mentors, to programming.

Day 3 [10/7]; Expanding horizons

Day 3 was full of new things as many of the students began working on other things rather than sumo bots. Code Combat has been gaining more and more attention as other students begin to do the Construct a Tower challenge as well. Sadly, the Draw My Thing challenge as well as the CAD your Robot have not been touched this entire camp due to resource limitations. The goal of today was to include these at least for Thursday, allowing students more options.

Sumo is still relatively popular among the students, with groups improving their robots to beat Bento Box, the mentor robot. Bento Box evolved once more though, with a shovel to bulldoze the competition out. The concept of the shovel to easily push robots is somewhat new to the ring as only 1 group has tried a similar strategy. Students have learned from being outmatched by Bento Box in its earlier stages, forcing them add motors or even gear their wheel for strength in order to beat it. The goal with the current Bento Box design is to teach them the concept of the shovel. Students that have beaten the mentor bot at any point in it’s development will receive full credit.

Friday is coming up close and it would be ideal for students to show off their sumo skills in a grand sumo tournament, where the winner is able to claim up to 2 prizes, with the runner up claiming 1, from the prize box. Additional prizes go out to students that complete the most challenges, do special tasks, or are the most stylish in certain areas. We also have our traditional potluck that day where everyone is asked to bring food and drink as students are free to display how they completed each challenge.

Special shout out to Kayden, one of our camp veterans, who held a daily world record time for beating one of the levels in Code Combat! Kayden has been coming to camps for the past 4 years and has accomplished many other new things during this camp. Good job Kayden!

Day 4 [10/8]; Wrapping up challenges

Today was the last day for finishing challenges. Students had all day to prep their Sumo bots for the upcoming tournament and to finish up the last of the missions they wanted to accomplish. Sumo bots and Code Combat were as popular as ever, with Draw my Thing becoming available.

Other than students continuing to work on their robots, towers, and programs, everything was chill. Mentors comment that this was the calmest camp we’ve had, and with the cool, spacious cafeteria, it’s easy to see why.

We hope that parents will be proud of their campers when they see the things that they accomplish during the potluck. Students will receive badges and certificates to commend their hard work over the week. Hope to see you there!

 Day 5 [10/9]; Potluck and Awards

For the last day of camp, students had a couple hours to prepare for the competition and potluck. While thursday was the last day to complete challenges, a few groups geared their robots for speed as they took on the Roborace. One group in particular, Sonne-Ty and Kam, did so well as to get 18 seconds in a 36 ft track!

Then it came time for the Sumo Tournament. All the groups competed for the title of Supreme Sumo Wrestler and additional prizes from the prize box. Matches were competed in best of 3s as robots went back and forth across the ring. It was a pleasure to see all the hard work of the students come to fruition in a friendly competition. Congratulations to Rowan and Kayson for taking first place!

With the theme of the camp being to complete challenges, teams with the most badges(gotten by completing a challenge) as of Thursday could pick 3 prizes from the prize bin. These groups were; Ellie and Abbie’s group, as well as Ayce and Aiden’s group. We were very proud to see that they completed 5 of the 7 available challenges to tie for first in the badge running. Both groups worked very hard with their mentors, achieving the Roborace, Sumo Wrestling, Tape Tangle, Draw my Thing, Tower, and Dungeon Programmer badges! The Tape Tangle challenge in particular needed the most effort as teams had to complete it autonomously if they wanted the full badge. This required them to build an NXT robot apart from their VexIQ robot and program all of it’s directions to get through the maze. Congratulations to these two groups!

To ensure a better experience next camp, we hope to provide new challenges for students to learn from as well as have fun doing. We’ll also work hard to get certificates and badges out to all students that earned them(as this camp was a little less than perfect with that). Organization was somewhat spot on and we’ll ensure this stays true.

It’s important for us to pass on our engineering knowledge, give back to the community, and raise funds, so camps are a staple in Hilo Viking Robotics. We’d like to thank those who participated for making it all possible. Ending the week on a high note, we hope that students and parents alike had a good experience and will continue to join us for camps to come. Mahalo!