LEGO Boost robots helped Girl Scouts learn about programming.
The School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering welcomed 20 campers from the Girl Scouts of Indiana in mid-July to the annual SICE Girl Scout Camp, which taught girls grades 6-8 to design, build, and program robots while getting a taste of college life.
Campers learned the basics of programming and algorithms as well as discovering how to write simple programs to control LEGO Boost robots and microprocessors, such as Raspberry Pis. They also learned how to integrate cameras and sensors into objects, such as stuffed animals, that allowed users to interact with the objects.
The campers closed the camp by putting on a showcase of their work.
“All the campers really worked well together,” said Yuzhen Ye, a professor of informatics and computer science who also was one of the organizers of the camp. “They learned Scratch, which was really to give them an easy way to learn programming, and it works really well with LEGOs. But it’s just to get them started, and I had them transition into using Python. The girls used Python to program the robots using Raspberry PIs. The Pi can work with different sensors and cameras, so the girls learned how to work with and program microprocessors.”
The campers brought their creativity. One group programmed a robot to “dance” and showcased a dance routine with two girls and the robot. Others used their textile skills to create clothes to go along with their stuffed animals, and the teams worked together to match their interests with specific parts of the projects.
“We provided a spectrum of activities and projects,” Ye said. “If they wanted to build the LEGO robots, they could do that. If they wanted to tell the robot what to do, they could do that. If they wanted to work on Scratch without diving into Python, they could do that, too. Not every camper got really excited about every element, but every girl found her area to focus on.”
The campers also stayed overnight in the dorms for the length of the camp and got to enjoy some on-campus activities.
“We wanted to make it fun and allow them to be creative,” Ye said. “And once they returned home, I hope they remain interested in robotics, computer science, engineering, and other STEM-related subjects. They don’t have to use what they learned here every day, but what they have learned, such as computational thinking and programming skills, will apply it to other things. The fundamental skills are what are so important and will stick with them for a long time.”