More than 20 local middle and high school students are learning advanced coding and programming skills during a weeklong 3-D printing, robotics and advanced coding camp at East Tennessee State University.
Campers are working in teams to construct an autonomous robot that uses its “eyes,” or sensors, to avoid running into walls and other objects.
“By the end of the week, campers will be prepared to jump into a computer science program,” said Mathew Desjardins, lecturer and camp director for the Department of Computing in the College of Business and Technology at ETSU. “In fact, much of what they’ve learned over the summer is very similar to the kinds of things that we would teach the first couple of semesters at ETSU.”
The 3-D printing and advanced robotics camp is the last in a series of code and technology day camps held throughout the summer in partnership with the Niswonger Foundation. In order to participate in this advanced camp, students were required to attend a beginner coding camp held earlier in the summer.
“There’s such a need for this. There are jobs opening up all the time looking for people who understand code. We try to show students that they don’t have to wait for college. They can start at an early age,” Desjardins said.
The camp gives students exposure to coding, problem-solving and math. Each group is challenged to put code on a microcomputer called an Arduino, and install the mini-computer board, motors and wires. All these pieces attach to a blue plate that was created using a 3-D printer in the ETSU Department of Computing. It takes about three hours to print each one, which includes an engraving of both the Department of Computing and Niswonger Foundation logos. Wheels are attached to the plate and once batteries are installed, the robot is controlled via a remote.
“Programming is the most tedious part, but it’s just because the students aren’t familiar with it, but once they get exposure to it they will be ready for college or the workforce by learning a skill I think everyone should know,” Desjardins said.
Veronica Watson, an incoming freshman at Elizabethton High School, calls her robot “WALL-E,” inspired by the well-known Disney film of the same name. She has attended several technology camps in hopes of gaining skills that will help her become a computer scientist.
“I’m really looking forward to getting an education in computer science and starting as young as possible is the best option for me,” she said.
For more information about the tech camps and ETSU’s Department of Computing, visit etsu.edu/cbat/computing/.