Diving in with swimming robots
By JOHNNY J. BURNHAM
NEW BRITAIN — The word robotics may be intimidating to some, but for a group of 15 middle-school students, there was no shying away Wednesday, as they dove into a world of underwater robots.
Sixth-through eighth-graders watched as some of their robotic creations made their way across the pool at Kaiser Hall as part of Central Connecticut State University’s Summer Robotics Program.
CCSU professor and program instructor Gregory Kane said the program feature a week of learning the basics of robotics — from designing to building and testing. The best part, he added, is how the program is taught.
“We’re teaching math and science, but in a hands-on way,” he said. “Some of the students don’t even realize they’re learning about math and science — all they know is that they’re doing it, and really having fun with it.”
Janice Palmer, CCSU spokeswoman, said each week focuses on a different age group. Last week, elementary school-aged children participated.
Next week, the high schoolers take over.
Each student leaves the program with a working SeaPerch underwater robot, built from scratch.
SeaPerch, Kane explained, is a system of building underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme.
Concepts include submarine design and naval architecture.
Kane added that getting youngsters interested in the STEM field — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — is crucial.
“We need people in this field,” he said. “We want to get kids interested and I think that’s what we are doing with this
Many high schools have begun implementing STEM coursework into their curriculum.
Students in the Summer Robotics Program look forward to the end of the day, Kane said — not because they want the program to end.
“When their parents come in to pick them up, they run over and bring them in to show them what they’ve built,” Kane said. “They are so excited and so proud of it. It’s amazing — it really is.”
Johnny Burnham can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 221, or firstname.lastname@example.org