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Young engineers gathering supplies to build the strongest popsicle bridges they can. Construct Your Future camp is one of the many summer camps that PSU hosts annually for kids.

Engineering and construction departments team up to teach local youth

From July 12 through July 16, the Engineering Technology department hosted Level one of their robotics camp. This camp was held from 9 a.m. to noon with level 2 being held from July 19 through July 23. The School of Construction teamed up with them for this workshop and held a construction camp on the same dates from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  

“We originally started this 19 years ago as a way to generate some enthusiasm around the topics of math and science and some of the applications,” said Randy Winzer, professor of engineering technology. “So, earlier this week students were collecting a set of data of how fast their robotics car would go and then they were using that data to figure out how they needed to write a computer program in order to be the most accurate for a task that we gave them.”  

These workshops were open to kids ages 9 to 14. They were given the opportunity to learn about various different aspects of robotics and construction.  

“We basically are teaching them how things happen in construction,” said Director of and professor in the School of Construction. “You design things, you have to measure things, and you have to build them the way you designed and have to understand computer applications and safety. You have to understand how things go together and the tools you use to get them to go together. We pretty much cover everything on a smaller scale that you would see on a larger construction process.”  

Teamwork was also an important part of this event. Children were separated into groups to build their projects and were encouraged to work together to problem solve.  

“This is the adventures in robotics camp, and we get to do leadership building projects all week long, then at the end of the week we take the LEGO robots and it has to accomplish a course including (a) hill climb, drag race, and tractor pull..,” said Jeremy Kowalsky, senior in electrical engineering technology. “…We’ve worked on working in groups and learning how to adjust things throughout the week…”  

The robotics workshop gave children the opportunity to learn the programming equipment and how to program their robots then build their robot using LEGO Mindstorm sets. They got to participate in a robotics Olympics event on the last day to test different aspects of their robot.  

“We also apply some physics principles so… they’re looking at having to move a bucket of sand but at the same time we also have a race track where speed is important and those are kind of from a mechanical standpoint, those are competing objectives..,” Winzer said. “…So, we’re teaching them to apply some of those concepts about making compromise in a design which is everything we do in life.” 

Many of the children who participated in the robotics camp also participated in the construction camp as well. At the construction camp, students learned about materials and the processes of designing as well as putting those processes into action by building birdhouses and doghouses. They also learned basic design methods and safety.  

“It’s not just a building process,” Otter said. “We want them to understand team building and want them to understand how to do things quality and they kind of do some estimating and sketching but they also have fun, and every day we take a break, every construction job has a break.., and provide them with snacks.”  

The children were taught how to safely use small tools and then worked their way up to using the equipment simulator and some actual equipment. They were provided with hard hats and safety glasses and were taught the importance of these.  

“We’re trying to generate some excitement around these concepts and they’re really learning and applying these scientific and mathematic principles,” Winzer said. “We’re just doing it in a way that’s unique and they don’t actually see that’s what they’re learning but they are.”  

At the end of the first week, they held a drawing where five of the children participating got to take home a doghouse that they had built.  

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