2016 Camps Location: Texas Museum of Science and Technology
1220 Toro Grande Drive
Cedar Park, TX 78613
About the Camps
SMART Camps are LASA Robotics’ award-winning STEM education outreach program. During a SMART Camp, elementary and middle school students work in pairs under the guidance of a robotics team member to design, build, and program their own robots using LEGO Mindstorms EV3 kits. These camps are designed to give the campers a challenge setting, problem solving hands-on experience. SMART Camps also urge students to learn to work together as a team using cooperation and compromise, skills that will help them in the future.
The idea of a robotics camp for children began with Robotics team member Allen Smith, who initially designed the camps to fulfill his Eagle Scout project requirements. The idea, however, was quickly incorporated into the team as a whole. The camps started small, with only a few paid camps a year held at LASA as a fundraiser, working with LEGO RCX kits and available school computers. In 2009, LASA caught the attention of 3M with its work, extending STEM education throughout Austin. In return for a $5000 grant, LASA agreed to bring the camps, cost-free, to a specified number of under-represented students over the course of a year. This goal was met, and with financial backing LASA was able to purchase new LEGO NXT kits and 12 laptops, that are now used to run mobile SMART camps.
These camps provide students with simple build instructions and exercises to complete in order to learn about how a robot can view and interact with the world (through the use of touch sensors, sonar sensors, the microphone, and so on). There are two 1/2 day camps offered at various times through the year. The two types are:
Programming SMART Camp
This SMART Camp provides campers with simple build instructions and exercises to complete in order to learn about how a robot can view and interact with the world (through the use of touch sensors, sonar sensors, the microphone, and so on). It is focused on providing the hardware platform, and guiding the students through exploring the LEGO Mindstorms robot through careful programming of the robot. Good start if competing in LEGO Mindstorms competitions like FIRST Lego League.
Strategy (Strategic Analysis) SMART Camp
This SMART Camp does not necessarily build on the exercises from the Programming Camp, it primarily focuses on the hardware aspect of the LEGO Mindstorms platform. The students will be provided with the basic build instructions again, but this time the students will be asked to modify their robots (or build robots from scratch) to solve a simple challenge provided to the students at the camp. The students will be engaged to think about design, strategy, mechanics, and skill – and then they have to drive their robots around RC-style while solving the challenge (putting their designs to the test).
How old do you have to be?
Students can take either session at almost any age, all we ask is that students who take the Strategy Camp understand that some manual dexterity will be required (which is why we set the minimum age at 10). Kids who want to get a “primer” with the programming for LEGO Mindstorms for a competition (like FIRST LEGO League) are encouraged to take the Programming camp, and kids who want to understand some of the “competitive” aspects are encouraged to take the Strategy camp.