By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
and KIRSTEN TAYLOR
Rutherford County Schools
A group of more than 20 middle school students participated in a weeklong coding camp, Robot Royal, at Stewarts Creek Middle School.
Over a five-day period, they build and program a pair of small robots.
“We’re building one that’s completely 3D-printed and all the electronics were piecemealed together,” said Kevin Welch, a STEM instructor at Stewarts Creek Middle, “so they’re going to build it from scratch. Everything from wiring together to reading the wiring diagram to learning how to do the programming of it.
“It’s a cool robot that walks on two legs and it can avoid obstacles. You can program it to follow a path or go through a course or navigate a maze or things like that. It’s cool.”
Welch is teaching the camp with Zach Martin, a fellow STEM instructor from Blackman Middle School.
This is their second year teaching the camp.
A major change from last year to this year is that camp attendees are building two smaller robots — one of which they get to keep and take home with them at the conclusion of the camp — instead of one larger robot.
The change gives this year’s camp a little more diversity, according to Welch.
“That’ll let us do a little more in-depth coding this year,” Welch explained. “We wanted to get into the coding a little deeper and give a few more options to have be coded than we did last year.”
“I came last year,” said Alex Bailey, a seventh-grader at Stewarts Creek. “I know Mr. Welch and he usually does a lot of fun activities.”
Bailey and his classmate Grayson Bonner, who also attends Stewarts Creek, said they are looking forward to the programming portion of the camp, which takes place during the second half of the week.
Bonner expects to advance his programming skills.
However, not all attendees have experience with coding.
“They don’t need to know anything,” said Welch, who approaches the curriculum as if no one has any knowledge of coding or programming. “We actually put a wiring diagram up there and we show them how to read the diagram … and we walk them through the assembly process.”
Welch added, “If you do come with some knowledge ahead of time and there are some students here that were in our code camp last year, they have some knowledge. … They work on my robotics team, so they get to build on that. There’s really not a ceiling.”
PHOTOS / KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT