Fall 2016 Camp Eureka Blog

Day 1 [10/10/16]

Engineering Session

Today was the first day of camp!  This camp is in fact the largest one in the history of Camp Eureka; we were ecstatic to see so many people interested in our engineering and robotics camp!  For the morning engineering session, we started off with some brief introductions and played a short icebreaker.  From there, we went ahead with explaining the engineering process in a presentation.  The engineering process is a key element to this camp, as students will be following the process throughout the week.  With the engineering process fresh on everyone’s minds, we moved on to some activities!

Each activity presented a challenge that taught the students principles of structure and made them think about weight distribution, the importance of triangles, differences between materials, and everything necessary to think about to make a structurally sound construction.   Following the presentation, the students built a cubes and triangular pyramids out of toothpicks and marshmallows.  With this activity, they investigated the sturdiness of pyramids, instability of cubes, and how to brace cubes in order to understand the importance of triangles in structures.  Then, we moved on to making retaining walls out of popsicle sticks and PlayDoh.  The students were instructed to make a structure that would prevent sand from one side of the wall pushing down the wall.  Multiple groups were able to accomplish this, and their walls remained standing even after a simulated earthquake!  After successfully making retaining walls, the students began using their knowledge of triangles and weight distribution even more to create popsicle stick tables!  The students were given a limited number of popsicle sticks and several size restrictions, but weren’t able to finish them before the end of the day- the project will continue tomorrow! 

Given that this was our largest Camp Eureka ever, we discovered that we needed several more mentors than what were present today.  A few had the day off after spending the entire weekend on Oahu for a VEX robotics tournament, Pan Pacific, but hopefully their presence tomorrow will ensure that there are enough mentors for all of the students.  We look forward to another day of engineering tomorrow!


Vex IQ Building & Programming Session

The robotics session this fall features a twist to our standard Vex IQ session: games never seen at our camps before!  There will be two primary games that the students will work on this week, and we started with the first one, Guardian Showdown.  This game emphasized both the importance of being able to score balls and being able to create a robot that can ‘battle’ other robots.  Bots clashed similar to a sumo tournament, but the element of guarding and scoring ball a ball was added.

We began with introducing the game, rules, and restrictions to the students, and the building began!  We saw quite a number of creative and intriguing robot designs, and are looking forward to the tournament tomorrow!  Although teams were not able to finish their robots by the end of the day, they will have more time to finish building and/or programming tomorrow.

Since this session has students with various different levels of experience with Vex IQ, this twist on a normal Vex IQ session seems to be successful!  For students that are building a robot for their very first time, they could following the manual for the standard robot and edit the design as they saw fit.  On the other hand, students that are experienced in Vex IQ robotics could play with the design of their robot significantly more.  Unfortunately, similar to the engineering session, there was a shortage of mentors in this session.  We definitely plan to improve our measures to ensure that this does not happen at a future camp.



Day 2 [10/11/16]

Engineering Session

For the second day, we continued working on tables and then proceeded to make towers.  Once students finished their popsicle stick tables, we stacked weights on top to see how many pounds the table could hold.  The strongest table, made by Liam, Chandler, and Nathan, successfully held 105 pounds!  Eli and Rowan unfortunately finished their table after the weighing deadline, but were able to hold an astounding 110 pounds!  This activity emphasized the importance of triangles and weight distribution in your design, as the strongest structures best included these two aspects.

Afterwards, the students learned more about structure and the properties of materials.  This included different loads and forces, as well as the definition of strength, toughness, ductility, malleability, and more!  Then, they made towers out of construction paper and tape that had to remain standing, even if a fan was blowing against it.  The day concluded with several groups starting another tower, this time out of straw and pipe cleaners.

Vex IQ Building & Programming Session

After a brief review of the game, Guardian Showdown, students regrouped and continued working on their robots.  Soon enough, robots were ready for competition, and we began scrimmages.  Scrimmages are especially helpful for students because they allow them to practice driving and use strategy in a setting virtually the same as the actual competition.  By participating, many students could see flaws in their design or aspects where they did not follow the regulations of the game, resulting in them making modifications.  In addition, we could see aspects of the game’s design that needed to be clarified before the official competition began.  Overall, scrimmages were beneficial for both students and mentors!  

After a break for snack time, the tournament bracket was made and the competition began!  All told, there were 13 participating teams, but not all were ready in time to participate in competition today.  However, we were able to identify the two finalist teams that would go on to the final round tomorrow: Team Robot and Team Disco Bot!  The competition was intense, and it’s not over yet!  We look forward to the rest of the matches tomorrow.



Day 3 [10/12/16]

Engineering Session

We began the third day of camp with a continuation of yesterday’s straw and pipe cleaner activity.  With only 15 pipe cleaners and 20 straws, teams had to create the tallest tower they could that would successfully hold a small, tennis-ball-sized foam ball on top.  Some students were able to make their tower 16 or even 17 inches tall!  

Once we completed this tower activity, the students regrouped to a classroom-format and we discussed bridges. The first bridge kids made was a truss bridge, which is a type of bridge that has a structure of connected elements that form triangular units.  By the end of the day, several groups finished their bridge.  We’ll be testing the strength of each bridge tomorrow!

Vex IQ Building & Programming Session

Today we continued the tournament and then introduced a new game to the students.  By this point, all teams had finished their robots, and we continued elimination matches, leading to the identification of our two other finalists.  The final round was very intense, but Team Not You of Connor and Cody won by a slim margin.  All other teams participated in a short transitioning game that introduced them to the second main game of camp: Steady Stacking.

Afterwards, we introduced the students to the next game, where robot teams formed alliances that competed to who could stack the most, tallest cube towers.  From there, the teams began taking apart their robots and reconstructing them to better fit this new game.  Tomorrow will be another day of building and scrimmages!



Day 4 [10/13/16]

Engineering Session

Camp is already almost over- where has the time gone!  We began the fourth day of camp by weighing bridges. They were only given 60 popsicle sticks, but the bridges were able to hold up to 86 pounds!  One of our mentors was able to put a loading block on each of the bridges, then add weight to the bridge with sand (via the loading block).

Once the students finished building their truss, some went on to build a suspension bridge (similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco) or began building a house of their own design.  They were given 80 popsicle sticks for their house and a variety of other materials (e.g. aluminum foil, transparent plastic wrap, foam, construction paper, toothpicks, and Playdoh).  Each student had their own take on this activity, there were kitchens, sheds, apocalyptic mansions, restaurants, and much more.  This allowed the kids to use a lot of their imagination, but they also had to ensure that their house was structurally stable, the materials were all intact, and that the house was waterproof.  Furthermore, their houses had to include several structural elements (e.g. at least one interior wall, beams, columns, roof trusses, and doors).  We’ll be continuing and then testing this activity tomorrow.

Vex IQ Building & Programming Session

Robot teams were hard at work on their bots the entire day.  Everyone was at a different stage, so we had some teams still in the building process, while others were programming, participating in scrimmages, or making minor modifications to their design.  Unfortunately, we were having motor connectivity issues the entire day, so our mentors tried to update any outdated motors as fast as possible.  We recently bought new Vex IQ parts, but unfortunately the new parts do not work well with older Vex IQ parts unless all older parts go through an updating process.

Nevertheless, the building process continued, and the students prepared themselves for competition tomorrow!



Day 5 [10/14/16]

Engineering Session

Today was the very last day of camp!  Students rushed to complete their houses, ensuring that they met the criteria before testing.  After parents of students arrived, we began testing the houses for their susceptibility to water damage, wind damage, and seismic damage.   This was simulated by pouring water on top of the house, blowing a fan directly next to each house, and vigorously shaking the table underneath each house.

Following the testing of the houses, we held an awards ceremony and potluck. We hope that the students enjoyed this learning experience and that they will retain and utilize the knowledge gained from this camp.

Vex IQ Building & Programming Session

For the first two hours of camp, we mostly held scrimmages and allowed for last-minute modifications to robot design.  Occasionally there would also be a motor that would not connect to a cortex, but this was mostly smoother than yesterday.  After 3:00, when parents began showing up, we began the tournament with 15 competing teams.  Each team was able to play in the tournament at least twice, and after about a dozen matches, the finalists were determined.  The winners of the tournament were Team Tanker and Disco Bot 2.0!  We were highly impressed by the quality of design and driving skills of all the students.  The students were able to take away the principles of building and programming robots with Vex IQ from this camp.  Hopefully they will use this knowledge to inspire and assist them in the future.