2015 Winter Camp Eureka Blog

Day 1  [12.19.15]

Lego NXT Session:

We started off the day at 9:00 am with an ice breaker and then got into groups of three to start working on the Daily Journal and the list of Challenges given out.

Students can choose which Challenges (each is worth a certain amount of points) from the list they want to complete first, the only requirement being that they accumulate 50 points by the end of the Camp. This camp’s Challenges include completion of Code Combat levels (a computer game designed to introduce and teach people how to program) (25 points), programming the NXT robot to autonomously draw a square or simple word with a pen on a sheet of paper (15 points), creating a robot that has a program to autonomously sort white and black blocks (25 points), and more! The Challenges are designed to introduce students to basic concepts that are vital to robotics, including engineering, programming, and effective communication.

Most of the students were productive and enthusiastic. There were a few problems with students in a group not wanting to work together, not wanting to work on the same challenge, or not completing their reflections at the end of the day. While minor, we are doing our best to fix them.

The most popular Challenge by far was Code Combat, which is an adventure style computer game where students have to use sets of simple commands to program their game character to complete the level. Students also started on the Straw Tower, Robotic Arm and Just Draw It challenges. Some groups were even able to complete challenges today, giving their group a head start in points!


Day 1 Winter Camp

VEX IQ Session:

At 1:00 pm, the platform was swapped to VEX IQ. Students formed groups of three, sharing a VEX IQ classroom kit and mentor between them. Similar to the earlier session, mentors went over the various challenges and questions in the journals before students choose a challenge to start off with. Most students immediately started off with the Sumo Bots, a favorite for many in the previous Camp Eurekas too.

The goal of Sumo Bots is to push the opponent’s robot out of the ring, ultimately striving to beat the mentor bot to earn the points for completing the Sumo Bots Challenge. Groups employ various strategies to achieve this goal; some gear their robots for speed, hoping that their extra boost will give them the upper hand to maneuver around the slower robots geared for torque and hit their weak spot. Other groups sacrifice speed for strength and build tank-like bots that can shove any opponent out of the way, or attach ramps to the front of the robots so as to get under the other robot and easily push it out of the ring.

At the end of the day students and mentors were reluctant to stop working and start cleaning up. This session mentors were more vigilant about making sure each student filled out the questions, especially the reflections for Day 1 of their Camp Eureka journals.

Day 1 Winter Camp


Day 2  [12.20.15]

LEGO NXT Session:

Today, students were encouraged to work on their journals. The activity featured in today’s entry explained gear ratios through a picture. While speed and torque were discussed during yesterday’s meeting, the journal explained the mathematical aspect. Students counted the teeth on the gears and mentors explained how ratios work like fractions and can be speed going one way, or strength going the other.

After completing journals, students were quick to pick up where they left off in their challenges. Many of the students opted to complete the rest of Code Combat, while others finished the new and improved maze activity. “Make it Through the Maze” has been a long time staple of Camp Eureka. It requires NXT programming, measuring skills, troubleshooting skills, and consistency in challenge conduct. Last camp, only a few groups had completed this challenge autonomously by the end of the week. This camp we already had a team complete the maze, being able to grab three of the four bonus blocks in the maze. When a team is able to grab two of the bonus blocks consistently, they win a minor prize from the prize pool for each set. Congrats to this team for completing the maze so early!


VEX IQ Session:

The journals for VEX IQ taught similar lessons, having the students look at the differences in RPM for each gear in the system. Gear ratios are particularly important in VEX IQ as Sumo Bots and the Robot Tow Service challenge require strength via gear ratios.

With the journals being completed, students began to test their sumo skills in the ring. Many of them beat the mentor robot using a shovel or ramp, discovering that the high gearing for torque and low speed keeps it from outmaneuvering disabling mechanisms. With the completion of Sumo Bots, the ring was taken out of play to make room for other challenges. Teams then moved onto the Robot Tow Service with their bots already geared for torque having the ability to pull the Curiosity robot through obstacles. As a lot of camp veterans are coming for a second time around to VEX IQ, we see them breeze through the online challenges like Code Combat and even the new Fantastic Contraption. As a result, we are closing the online games after tomorrow’s session.


Day 3 [12.21.15]

Lego NXT Session

This morning the students went straight to work on the challenges. Many groups already racked up a lot of points, completing challenges like the Straw Tower Challenge, Maze Challenge, and Code Combat Challenge, so the mentors had to work hard to keep them motivated to keep earning points. Today was also the last day to work on the Code Combat and Fantastic Contraptions Challenges, which were favorites of the students. Although that decision disappointed some students, being off of computer based activities gives them more time to work on Robot based challenges like the Just Draw It! Challenge (in which the students have to program their robots to draw a simple shape or word with pen on paper).

VEX IQ Session

Groups have been working hard the past couple of days and some have earned over 100 points! Although we are proud of what they accomplished, we are disappointed in the fact that groups tend not to work on Challenges together, like they were intended to do. Despite that, students are completing tasks at such a fast rate though, that next session, instead of continuing on challenges like we planned, we are going to focus on Sumo Bots and have a tournament. Sumo Bots are a particularly fun challenge that groups are enthusiastic about. We hope the spark of competition and the goal of besting the mentor bot will inspire the students think of new, innovative designs.


Day 4 [12.22.15]

Lego NXT Session


After the students came in this morning they were all surprised with a new task: a challenging maze they had to navigate with a goal of getting all four blocks to the End! Students made creative attachments, such as bulldozer-like scoops, for their robots in order to gather up the blocks and keep them together they were collected. All the groups were hard at work measuring degrees and creating a successful maze program.


VEX IQ Session

Groups were excited to find out that today was going to be all about Sumo Bots! The first half of the session was spent letting students try out and refine their designs before the Competition after snack break. There were many interesting strategies that groups came up with. Some loaded their robots with weight so that they would be immovable, others used a torque gear ratio to give them the extra power to push opponents off. We also saw ramps to get under the opponent and easily shove them out, and body armor that protects the robot from things like being susceptible to ramps. It was interesting to see which robot won and which design, or combination proved most effective. The winner of this competition got the advantage of a free win for tomorrow’s Tournament for the parents!


Day 5 [12.23.15]

Lego NXT Session

After having an hour and a half to finish up on the Challenges, students started to clean up their areas and finish journals before the parents arrived. Many students were rushing to add finishing touches to their maze programs or even complete a difficult Challenge and get some more points before Camp ended.

When all the parents arrived, we started out with a  small presentation about our club before diving into the fun part; show and tell! Mentors took the students and their parents around different stations showing them what type of activities their children had been working on the past five days. The students had a lot of fun showing their parents what challenges they achieved, whether it was their maze program, Code Combat achievements, or Straw Towers!

Reluctantly leaving the stations the parents and students finally took the time to grab a bite to eat and sit down for the certificate and prize presentation. Students were called up by their groups and after posing for picture taking, got a small prize.

VEX IQ Session

Although there was time to work on other challenges, most groups choose to perfect their Sumo Bots and challenge other teams to battle.

The Sumo Bot tournament proved to be a culmination of their hard work for the past days. After much excitement and yelling, the ‘Iron Turtles’ ramp and torque geared chassis won a close match with Team ‘Wall-E’. All of the students did well this camp and exceeded all of our expectations for them.

More Pictures of the 2015 Winter Camp Eureka can be found here.

Thank you!