By volunteer writer Amy Freeman
“What’d you do on your summer vacation?” is a question lots of kids get asked at the start of a new school year.
Girls who attended the in-person Arduino programming camp, hosted by Harper College, in Palatine, Illinois, get to have a fun response. They spent a few days in July learning how to build robots at the Makerspace and Entrepreneur Center. The TechCamp was made possible by a grant from the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association (FMA).
The Arduino programming camp teaches middle-school-aged girls the basics of Arduino circuits and robot programming basics. At the end of the camp, they’ll have made an obstacle-avoiding robot they can control with an Arduino controller.
Jeffrey Moy, who founded and runs the IDEAShop Makerspace and Entrepreneur Center at Harper College, had two of the school’s engineering students teach the material. The students “did a GREAT job,” he says, noting that they had some programming and engineering experience and were also self-taught.
Prior to hosting the camp, Harper College had run some Arduino workshops, so the subject matter wasn’t completely new to Jeffey and the students teaching the camp.
Jeffrey says that his favorite part of the camp was the enthusiasm and excitement the girls had for the subject. He was impressed by how many of the participants were really interested in the subject matter.
He has some tips for anyone looking to host a similar camp or workshop. First of all, he recommends checking the robots’ batteries, as they tend to run out quickly. He also suggests being flexible and ready to pivot at any point. “Something always goes wrong,” he says. Being able to think fast and adjust will keep the workshop flowing.
Perhaps the most important piece of advice he has for potential camp leaders is to “have fun and be passionate! It’s contagious.” The girls attending the camp will pick up on your enthusiasm and have a great time themselves.
Following this TechCamp, Harper College, funded by FMA, led a Girls in Engineering Camp from July 19th through July 23rd! During this five day event middle school girls were able to explore the engineering design process, basic 3D modeling software, 3D printing, programming, and machine learning. With these new skills participants designed a roller coaster using pipe insulation, marbles, and objects within the room, printed a 3D model, and created wearable electronics.
Interested in running your own TechCamp? Browse our plans and start putting together your camp today!