UVa Camp Encourages Young Engineers

By: Jennifer Black Email
By: Jennifer Black Email

July 16, 2008

Several middle school students are spending some time back in the classroom this week.

A group of 25 middle school students from across the Charlottesville area are taking part in the 2nd annual Systems Robotics Design Camp at the University of Virginia this week.

“After you make a robot you can use it for a special thing that you would like it to use, and if your just outside playing football, you can get hurt and wont be able to make robots that you wanted to do after,” camper, Nadir Muhammad said.

On a beautiful day outside, the campers were thrilled to be inside a UVa classroom, where they can put their creativity in motion.

“We had to figure out how it's going to stand up, and where we're going to put all the sensors and the motors,” Muhammad said.

Camp organizers say the rising 6th, 7th and 8-th graders are the engineers of the future.

“It’s a great program to get these kids excited about this stuff,” UVa professor of systems and engineering, Reid Bailey said. “They're going to be programming those robots to do complex things.”

Organizers say summer is a great time to get kids on the fast track.

“This is when a lot of decisions are made about which math courses to take or which track to be on,” Bailey said.

“It was fun working with the kids, see how they understand things about engineering, solve problems with the robots, they have a lot of fun,” UVa Grad student, Fernan Pedraca said.

These young minds are learning the value of mature concepts.

“It's a very educational camp and I mean, I would like to come again so I can learn more, because it's very hard to all master in one go,” camper, Patrick Do said.

The camp costs $300, but Bailey says close to 40% of the kids are recipients of need-based scholarships.

The camp is offered though UVa's department of systems and information engineering program.

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