Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito holds first robotics workshop for club teens
Members at Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito’s Harper Teen Center had their first workshop on how to build and program their own robots. The workshop series is part of the Club’s STEAM education programming which exposes members to hands-on activities to stimulate early interest in fields such as science and engineering. The teens will be using LEGO Mindstorms Education EV3 robotics kits to develop robots that stand and walk upright, navigate mazes using ultrasonic sensors, and move at different speeds in response to code that the teens will learn to write on their own. The Lego kits were purchased with an award from the McCarthy Family Foundation.
The workshops are being led by STEM2Leaf Robotics, a local teen group started by brothers Garrek and Naythan Chan and friend Brady Nicol. In 2017 the three reached out to Boys & Clubs of San Dieguito La Colonia Clubhouse Manager Gloria Castellanos with the idea of starting a robotics education program for kids, to be run entirely on a volunteer basis. Castellanos encouraged the idea, and now with the recent expansion to Harper Teen Center, the program is being run at three Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito sites for middle and high school-aged kids and with modified programming for elementary school ages. The group recruits robotics-minded high school kids from around the county to help lead the workshops.
During the workshops Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito kids learn robot design from the ground up. Garrek Chan explained that the first third of the workshop is dedicated to “robot learning mechanics” where the kids learn how to construct the machines from just electrical lego wires, sensors, and processors. The next part is developing code to set the robots in motion. Finally comes the real-world test:
“The kids download the code into the physical robot and test it out to see how their code is working, and whether or not the design is holding up to the challenge and is reliable. This is the part where the kids really light up. They start jumping up and down and cheering on the robots”, Garrek Chan said.
Garrek Chan explained that the final phase which includes debugging and troubleshooting is a key part of the learning process. The ultimate goal is to have a Club-wide competition at the end of the school year to impart that there is a “mission and purpose” to robotics.
Bosque Leanio is the site manager at Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito’s Harper Teen Center. He shared that the workshops have been particularly significant for Club kids this year:
“The program has been a great outlet for the kids during these times. They are very engaged, and they love the hands-on nature of robotics. It’s different from what they have been doing this past year and they’re learning to think differently”, said Leanio.
Director of Club Services at Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito, Candace Gerlach, wants to expand on what STEM2LEAF has launched for the organization:
“We are in the process of training our staff on how to use the robotics kits so we can integrate programming into our afterschool programs. We would like to grow the program and eventually be able to host workshops at our Clubhouses throughout North County for our youth in the community. We are always looking to expand our STEAM-based activities”, said Gerlach.
Robotics and other STEAM activities at Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito will continue into the summer months. Visit bgcsummercamps.org.
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