ChickTech Turtle Robot Workshop 2020

It is hard for me to believe that it has been seven years since my first workshop, and five years since I started with the Turtle Robot workshop.  The Open Source Turtle Robot I designed specifically for this workshop has gotten better and better.  My workshops leader skills have gotten better and better.  And this workshop was the best so far.  It was designed to introduce high school age girls to engineering, mainly electrical, mechanical, and firmware.  I tell them that engineering is all about problem solving.  The trick is figuring out which problems you like solving!

It was held on February 22nd, 2020, in an Oregon State University engineering building.  I love doing these workshops on college campuses because it shows the participants that college is a real, tangible place, not some hypothetical scary future.  They get to take a campus tour during lunch and a lot of the volunteers are students which make great examples of what the future may hold for them.

The challenge for this workshop was that it was one day instead of normal two.  By abbreviating the solder portion, we can concentrate on assembling and programming the robot.  There is great value in just getting a soldering iron in their hand, and them being able to point to the robot and say I soldered this part.  They also soldered a Maker Faire LED Robot that they could wear.

I had three excellent volunteers.  One was a high school STEM teacher I know from our HP days.  One was a OSU professor in computer science (very helpful).  Another was an OSU student who helped with the soldering.  I can design, plan, and assemble forever, but I cannot run these workshops without help, and I really appreciate them volunteering their time. I point out to the participants that we are all volunteers giving up our weekend because we feel that creating this experience for them is important.
The stand-out student (there is always one), not only figured out how to draw a circle (a many-sided polygon), but also worked out one of her trigonometry homework problems and had the robot draw the solution.  Nothing more powerful than the real-world output of a theoretical problem.
In past workshops, we have struggled making sure that everyone takes home a working robot.  These gals all finished early and had time to explore the example programs I had prepared, and to attempt some of the challenges I had issued such as navigating a maze.

The high-light of these events is when the parents and siblings come in for a "tech show" and you get to hear the girls explain how they built and programmed the robot.  It is an amazing feat to accomplish in just a few hours.  I predict great success for these girls in what ever they decide to pursue in their lives!

I am already planning on how to improve the next workshop.  Stay tuned . . .

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