By Karen Billing
Canyon Crest Academy will offer its first robotics camp for elementary school students this summer, led by alumni and student volunteers. The camp will run in five weekly sessions from June 30 through Aug. 4.
The camp idea came from brainstorming CCA robotics team members and alumni mentor Tyler Carter, who five years ago was a founding member of the Aluminum Narwhals robotics team. For the last three years, Carter has volunteered as a mentor for CCA’s robotics teams.
“We want to inspire fifth and sixth graders to be interested in science, technology engineering and math,” said Carter.
He said many students that age don’t get the chance to be exposed to robotics in school so this is a way to introduce them and get them prepared and excited for the next level.
Throughout the week, kids will work together to build “awesome” robots that can complete intricate tasks and compete against each other in competitions.
Campers will also work with mentors to build a high school-style robot, learning new scientific and engineering principles, as well as have fun creating something that can fire off tennis balls.
Around 18 student volunteers from CCA’s robotics program are signed up to help Carter and fellow lead mentor Garrison Price, another CCA graduate who is pursuing computer science at San Diego State University. Price was the student mentor for the Narwhals, as well as CCA’s FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) team, de.evolution, that competed in the world championship robotics tournament in St. Louis in April.
The camp is being run through the Canyon Crest Academy Foundation, with profits going back into the school’s science, technology, engineering and robotics programs.
Since Carter’s days at CCA, the robotics program has steadily grown. CCA has about 120 students involved in robotics across campus — they have four FIRST robotics teams as well as a robotics course where students in the course learn how to design, build and program robots on the NXT-Tetrix program.
Carter’s interest in science started when he was young — since he was 13 years old he has been a computer programmer and had multiple job offers before he even graduated high school. He is currently in the midst of pursuing a degree in business administration and after that will consider getting a computer science degree or his teaching credential.
Working with and inspiring students in science is something he greatly enjoys.
“They’re awesome,” he said of the CCA students he works with.
Maya Ziu, one of the student volunteers for the camp, just joined the robotics team this year at the urging of her friends.
“It was the best decision I’ve made,” Maya said. “The people are all fascinating, intelligent and they love to build things and solve problems… it’s the highlight of my week.”
Maya said her involvement has led her to start seriously thinking about engineering and science as a career choice when she hadn’t before. Carter breaks into a huge smile hearing her say this.
“This is the stuff mentors live for,” Carter said.
In addition to having a great time tinkering with and building robots, Maya’s team has also been rewarded for its efforts. At the San Diego Regional competition this year, her team won a creativity award for innovative design — they were the only team who designed a circular robot.
Carter stresses the summer camp won’t be all work and be all indoors — students will be provided lunch and will get outside for breaks to play games such as ninja tag.
Carter also emphasized that no power tools will be used in the robot construction and when students are working on the high school-level robots they will wear safety glasses, but mostly just to encourage good habits.
“The biggest thing is we want to get kids excited because during the week we can’t teach them everything but we can get them interested in science and technology and that’s our goal,” Carter said.
Maya said she hopes the camp will show the youngsters all the opportunities they will be able to pursue and will, hopefully, “get a lot more scientists into the world.”
To register for camp or learn more, visit