Crownpoint, NM – Students and educators in the kindergarten through high school system participated in a week-long robotics camp at Navajo Technical University sponsored by NTU’s engineering department and NASA. The inaugural camp introduced participants to basic engineering design principles, 3-dimensional printing, and the assembly and programming of robots.
Fifteen students and nine teachers participated in the camp, which focused on hands-on learning experiences using NTU’s engineering resources and facilities. According to Dr. Monsuru Ramoni, the Robotics Academy Principle Investigator, the intent of the camp was to build a long-term interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), while increasing an understanding of how each relate to NASA missions and activities.
“STEM has become an important subject in the classrooms across the globe, and enabled NASA to have the best scientists and engineers the world has seen,” explained Dr. Ramoni, who is an assistant professor in NTU’s ABET accredited industrial engineering program. “By hosting more events for students like the NTU robotics camp we can build a diverse future STEM workforce.”
The Robotics Academy used a hands-on approach to teach students and instructors knowledge and skills required in STEM, and utilized software such as TinkerCAD and Onshape to introduce participants to parametric modeling and how 3D design of parts. Participants also learned how to program robots to perform different tasks. At the conclusion of the camp, a competition was held where robotic vehicles were programed to navigate an obstacle course.
“The kids are the ones whose imaginations don’t stay in the box,” explained Janice Spiros, a camp participant and the librarian of Miyamura High School in Gallup, NM. “They’re not afraid to push buttons. They’re not afraid to try things.” Spiros was attending the camp to gather a better understanding of 3D printing and robotics since Miyamura recently established a maker space within its library to support the school’s Pathways efforts. She stated she enjoyed the hands on work, but also discussions on how robotics could be used to improve the future, whether helping cars get better gas mileage or in agriculture and planting. Arnel Dela Cruz, a teacher also from Miyamura, agreed with Spiros about the camp and was excited for the opportunities that will open up to students as a result of the camp.
“You build their confidence and they participate more. We’re preparing our kids for their future; they will be ready for STEM careers. Even if they don’t go to college, they have a skill they can use so they can be hired,” explained Dela Cruz. “These kids have a creative side. This camp enhances that creativity.”
To learn more about the robotics camp or the Industrial Engineering program at Navajo Technical University you can contact Dr. Monsuru Ramoni at firstname.lastname@example.org.