Triton College summer camp creates underwater robots
Denys Martynyuk, 11, River Grove; Makail O’Neal, 12, Forest Park; Eddie Fonseca, Triton College Engineering Technology student; and Brandon Silva, 14, Elmwood Park work together on their robot in Triton College’s WaterBotics summer camp.| Alicia Roberson~Triton College
Updated: August 27, 2012 10:14AM
RIVER GROVE — With the help of LEGO blocks, area elementary school students took some time off from their summer break to have fun in an educational way.
Last week 23 youths met at Triton College for four days to participate in the school’s WaterBotics Program. Antigone Sharris, faculty and program coordinator in Engineering Technology at the college coordinated the program.
Sharris said the free program intends to spark student’s interest in science, technology, engineer and math or the acronym STEM.
The program was funded by a National Science Foundation Grant and dispersed through the Stevens Institute of Technology, which implements the WaterBotics program. This is second year they’ve had the program at Triton.
“Test scores are not that hot when it comes to engineering and math,” Sharris said. “Budgeting has stripped schools down to the basics, eliminating the arts and technical classes.”
That has stranded a lot of potential students who would have become scientists, engineers or involved in a related field.
“When we stifle that thought process, they lose interest and turn it off,” she said.
WaterBotics is a way to turn interest in STEM on and keep it on through an interactive challenges. The students, who are from 11 to 14 years old, are broken up into teams to solve an engineering problem
They use LEGO blocks and related small machinery to build a robot that could be used underwater to pick up and move objects.
Brandon Silva, 14, of Elmwood Park along with Deays Martynyuk, 11, of River Grove and Makail O’Neal, 12 were working the kinks out of their robot, hoping the claws they put on their machine would close around the object and the two propellers they put in place would move it.
Silva said he thinks it will work, but enjoyed the event nonetheless.
“It’s been interesting doing things like this because I want to become and engineer when I’m older,” Silva said. “I like that we’re learning about engineering, how robots are used in the real world.”
Jacob Nunez, 12, of Hinsdale and Sydney Weiner, 11, of Melrose Park, who made up the “Go Big or Get Lost” team name they had given themselves had already put their robot underwater in a large pool used for the event to see how their robot would do. Although it moved a bit they still had more work to do, but they didn’t seem to mind.
“When I came to the class, I didn’t know I could make this robot move,” Weiner said.
Andrea Blaylock, who teaches in Triton’s Engineering and Technology Department, helped challenge the team members.
“We’re trying to motivate them and make sure they focus on the task at hand,” she said. “There are four tasks they have to complete and we help them think outside the box.”
Blaylock added the program is more than just about making the robot complete the task.
“Most of them haven’t been in teams before,” she said. “The have to learn how to interact. The hardest thing I had to do is make sure all of them had a part to play.”
Sharris said WaterBotics brings STEM to life outside of the classroom.
“It’s hands-on and they are learning through doing,” she said. “You test your ideas. There are no ABC answers.”
She hopes the program will help the students take the experience and build on it when they return to school in the fall.
“By giving these kids this experience our hope is that they go back and reengage and (get) more fired up than they already are,” she said.