Over the summer, the University of Illinois campus slows down with college students but doesn’t go quiet. Hundreds of high school girls made their way to campus to attend a camp called GAMES, Girls Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering and Science. Across these fields, the percentage of females in these career paths has been low. Part of the Women in Engineering initiative has been working to raise the percentage of incoming female freshmen above 22%. Programs like these introduce and engage high schoolers to see what these fields are about.
Two Pixonauts, Steve Zazeski and Landi Lark, were camp coordinators for the Computer Science Robotics track.
On the first day of the camp, they introduced the girls to writing instructions for computers by making a recipe that a person has to follow exactly (with hilarious results).
The camp starts with the usual Lego Mindstorm robots but instead of using the drag ’n’ drop interface, we used NXC (Not eXactly C) and taught them program the Mindstorm to follow along a wall with ultrasonic sensors and to follow a line with infrared sensors. Then, they built sumo bots to push other robots out of a black ring without leaving the circle themselves.
The second half of the week included:
- 3Pi (arduino-style) robots in Atmel Studio using real C language
- more advanced multi-sensor array line following
- taking the girls to the new ECE building where they got to work in the Texas Instrument Design Lab to solder on photocells, headers and resistors to their robot
- building a controller that sends 4 buttons over a single wire with different voltages
But perhaps even more impressive than our Pixo colleagues’ willingness to spend their vacations mentoring and teaching kids about technology, is this video they created (lyrics by our very own Landi Lark):