A main goal we have in the FRC program is to spread the message of FIRST. One of the ways that we decided to do this was to bring the FRC experience to the young students of our school and summer visitors of the island. Although we hope to start a FIRST Lego League team soon in the future, currently our FIRST Robotics Competition team is the only FIRST team at our school. So, to bring this experience to our younger peers and spark interest to sustain our team we designed a mini, week long, FRC emulated challenge for incoming 3rd to 6th graders. We decided that based on the time frame and age of the children, we were going to use the software and kits used in FIRST Lego League. Consequently, the software, Lego Mindstorms EV3, was what we learned to program with before we joined FIRST in 2016. We spend time in the summer designing and constructing our bIrobot custom challenge. Including coming up with the structure of the game, building the field, writing the game manual, making lesson plans, organizing our supplies, and marketing and advertising the camp itself.

On August sixth, the first day of camp our nine campers (eight BICS students and one visitor) began to build their skill set. We divided them into teams that they would work with throughout camp.The three teams name themselves The Poppers, The Hackers, and The Code Crackers. Then we did a whole group human robot activity to teach campers basic programming fundamentals. After that, campers began working on Lego Mindstorms programming and building lessons. They continued working through these lessons into Tuesday. The end of the day on Tuesday was kickoff. The campers were introduced to their challenge Mars Rover Mars Rover Send Your Robot On Over, saw the practice field for the first time, and got their game and season manuals. This year in FIRST every program level has a space themed game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. We decided when creating our challenge to stick with the space theme. The basic structure of the challenge as described in the game manual was as follows:

“The 2018 MARS ROVER game includes Mars exploring ROBOTS on a mission to discover the terrain of Mars along the mission course and to report back.

Each teams ROBOT must be able to do three things:

  1. Follow the MISSION COURSE. ROBOTS must follow the white line on the red Mars terrain through the duration of the course.
  2. Identify SOIL SAMPLES along the way. As the ROBOT follows the Mission Course it must identify the four types (Green, Yellow, Blue, and Black) of soil samples.
  3. Climb MARS MOUNTAIN (Olympus Mons) and check for water at the top. Once the ROBOT has reached the top it must identify rather water is present or not at the top. But you must remember Don’t Fall In.”

Before the campers left for the day teams had a quick brainstorming session to begin designing their robot. The rest of the week was build season, spent designing, building, and programming their robots. Just like in our FRC season the teams experienced successes and setbacks. On Friday, Stop Build, teams spent the morning organizing their pits and putting final touches on their robots. The teams then headed off to lunch as their mentors, the bIrobot team members, set up the competition field. The teams had not seen the field all put together until this moment and were bubbling with excitement at the doors to take a look. After the arrival of family and friends, the competition was underway. The competition began with teams being interviewed by our community member judges Annette Dashiell, Bob Anderson, and Greg Doig to be considered for awards. Then, the matches began. The competition was a success with a winner, first, and second runner up declared. The banners signed by the team members are displayed in our bIrobot lab. The judges awarded the Team Spirit Award and Engineering Quality Award to two teams in addition to their placement banners.

Overall, the experience of bIrobot summer camp was a valuable experience not only for the campers but for team bIrobot as well. We were able to experience creating a whole camp and executing it. Additionally, we are hopeful that the kids who participated will think hard about joining our FRC team or a FIRST team in their area once they become old enough. We have already had a camper who was old enough this school year become a team member. Hopefully we will see this continue in the years to come. Although putting this together was a lot of work, watching the campers faces light up when something finally clicked was worth every bit of effort.

Congratulations to all of the campers who participated you did amazing!

Special thanks to our judges Annette Dashiell, Bob Anderson, and Greg Doig for the generosity of your time to participate in our event.