Robotics for Fun – Grid Kit Competition Winners
We are please to announce the winners of the 1st Robotics for Fun – Grid Kit Competition. The competition entries were incredible! We saw animals of all types including fish, lions, alligators, crabs and dragons! Here are the results:
1st Prize – Annabel Dudash
We were impressed by her use of the Grid Kit material and her use of color! Each fish scale was formed by curving the surface of the Grid Kit material.
2nd Prize – Mahal Tran
Her walking mechanism is remarkable. Her crab walks using the motors from the online membership Basic Kit.
3rd Prize – Kuma McCraw
He used different elements from the competition kit to design his dragon. The wheels were used to form the shape of the wings!
We would like to thank everyone who participated and supported the competition. We look forward to seeing what you will design next with the Grid Kit!
Staff of Robotics for Fun
At Robotics for Fun we often ask students at the end of the Introductory Class what they liked more: building or programming? About 70% will say building, 20% will say programming and about 10% will say both. In robotics you need to do both so I am always happy to hear that 10% response. Why these ratios exist I do not know. I suspect that a large number of the students are more familiar with and more comfortable building and they get to see the results of their hard work more quickly. Students are less familiar with programming so it can be a little more challenging and frustrating. I think the students who say both probably understand and like that both building and programming are required to make their robots work. Anyway. We need both strong builders and programmers.
There are different levels of commitment that parents make to their child’s interest. At Robotics for Fun we have seen parents drive nearly an hour each way, every week for four years so their son could participate in our program. We have parents who call from out of state and countries like India, Taiwan and Australia, months in advance so their child can attend our program. Other parents make financial sacrifices. All of these efforts reflects a parents commitment to their child’s interest in learning robotics and their support of our program.
There are different way to show support for a child interest. We have a young girl in the program who is truly amazing. She is a fast learner, listens well to instruction, is extremely creative and can build and program as well as any other really strong student we have ever worked with. Here mother has supported here to an amazing degree and her interest in robotics and technology seems to be growing. Outside of the program she builds figures, some of which are of robots.
Her mother is so supportive that she got a tattoo of one of her daughter’s designs on her arm. It is simple and beautiful. I was amazed by that level of support. Not everyone would do this but I can only imagine what it means for the young girl. I am sure she sees it occasion and is reminded that it is something that she created. She will always remember her mothers tattoo and it will always be a symbol of her mother’s support and encouragement. Sometimes that is all that is needed to be great.
Girls are interested in learning robots but their parents often get in the way. We have seen it a number of times since we started Robotics for Fun in 2004. About five years ago we had siblings visit our program. The brother was attending our classes regularly and his sister really wanted to take our classes too but she was in a piano class. It turned out that the boy wanted to learn piano and the girl wanted to take robotics. The parents would not let them switch!
More girls need to learn and pursue career in science and technology. Parents have a right to be concerned about their daughters in a predominately male environment but they should not discourage their child’s interest because of it. I understand those concerns but in the hundreds of classes we have taught the students are so engaged in their work that they have little time to be surprised by another gender in the classroom or to be distracted by it. We have worked hard to get more girls to participate in robotics. We have hired female engineering staff, offered scholarships and tried to reassure parents that a mixed gender classroom would not be a problem. Our effort have worked to some degree.
We have more girls in our program now than we have had in the past. One of the first girls to graduate from our program is now studying Computer Science. We will keep trying and we hope more parents will give their daughters a chance to try robotics along with their other activities.
When we started Robotics for Fun we only worked with Legos. That was fine at the time until our students had an ability to do more. As they continued working with us they became more creative and expressive in their work. They simply could not design to their ability with Legos and needed something more.
We created the Grid Kit as a result. We are seeing much stronger and more expressive work from our students. It is a simple kit that allows students to build anything. They can design any piece that they need in any size and shape. The big challenge has been getting people to understand that cardboard as a material is very strong if you know what you are doing and if you are building correctly. Engineers know this. We need our young students to know this too!
We established Robotics for Fun in 2004 to provide a fun learning environment for students in all aspects of robotics. We have learned a lot over the last eight years and mostly from the students.
Years ago I had one parent who had a remarkable child. I think at the time he was nine. He had an incredible capacity to design and program and he worked at a very high level. He loved building in particular but was an extremely strong programmer. His Dad wanted him to spend more time programming. We understand the importance of keeping students engaged while encouraging them to do things they may not like but managing the expectations of the parent and the needs of the child can be tricky. Fortunately we have managed to do both well over the years.
One day the parent, child and I were talking. The Dad asked the child why he did not want to do more programming. He seemed frustrated that his child did not want to do more programming and the child gave the best answer anyone could have expected. He said ” It is called Robotics for Fun”. Nothing could have summed it up better. He was nine years old, was engaged in learning robotics, happened to be strong in both areas and just wanted to do it at his own pace.
When I see Robotics for Fun I remember that. He reminded me that it should just be fun.