Camp Laurelwood is the premier Jewish summer camp in the northeast for a variety of reasons. From incredibly devoted and caring staff, to a variety of incredible and downright fun activities. This year, I was given the opportunity to staff the camp’s Digital Media Center, a state of the art computer and photography lab. Before taking the job, I was informed about a potential robotics program the camp was thinking about implementing. This immediately intrigued me, and I was delighted to hear someone had donated a series of VEX Robotic kits. My first impression upon opening the huge boxes each robot came with was, “Wow, this is truly top of the line.” VEX robotics is without a doubt the best robotics program out there because of how versatile and user friendly it is. It’s perfect for every skill level and offers a true, “Challenge by choice” aspect many other programs do not have. I quickly found that every interest set and skill level was met.
Over the course of the summer, I had the absolute privilege of introducing close to one hundred kids to the exciting world of programming and building robots. The robotics specialist camp, which lasted for a week, was an immersive deep dive. First, the kids built the robots, using a system of parts very similar to lego’s: this was incredibly popular. I was able to give helpful instruction, and help guide the campers, but what makes these specific robotic kits so good is that they encourage creativity. The kids were able to build the robot that they wanted to build. Next, it was on to programming. Using a very intuitive software, and the camp’s Apple desktop computers, all of the campers who participated in robotics were able to program their own robot to follow commands, move in certain ways, pick up items, and use sensors. Doing this was easy enough that even the youngest campers could participate, and there enough options that their interest was kept throughout the individual session.
Once the robots were built and programmed, I set up different activities involving each group’s personalized machine. A particularly popular activity was, “Robot Racing” where teams would compete to see which of their robots was fastest. After each race, each team would have time to modify their robots. Another incredibly popular activity was, “Robot Obstacle Course.” Throughout the Digital Media Center I set up different tasks each teams’ robot would have to accomplish: first team to complete all the challenges won.
Perhaps the best thing about the robotics program at Camp Laurelwood is how focussed it is on what the campers want to do. If they want to spend time redesigning or rebuilding their robot, and that’s exactly what happens. If they want to focus on programming their robot, then that’s what happens. If the campers want to make a movie about their robots using the camp’s cameras, then they get to do that. What Camp Laurelwood, and the robotics program as a whole offers is a personalized experience for your camper, and a ton of fun!