Robotics teach girls science, engineering skills
July 25, 2012
By Sebastian Moraga
Regarding the crime of interrupting her online fix, Hailey Modzelewski has one suspect.
“My mom,” said Modzelewski, who will join Mount Si High School as a sophomore next year. “She said I spent too much time with a computer, and she made me socialize.”
Modzelewski pleads not guilty, saying online friends are still friends.
“I talk to people on the Internet,” she said. “That counts.”
The “punishment” for having such an active virtual social life and virtually no other social life was to spend this week at Bots On The Sound, a summer camp at Mount Si High School for teenage girls interested in robotics.
Proving once again moms are always right, Modzelewski said she has enjoyed her “sentence.”
“It’s pretty fun,” she said. “We got to play with Legos and save people.”
The latter part may be a bit of a stretch. Students at Bots On The Sound build robots and then test them on above-ground pools. To make it more exciting, these tests include certain “pretend” challenges, like pretending to rescue a Lego kayaker and take him or her back to shore, or retrieving something or someone from under water.
The camp, seeking to get girls into science and technology, happens thanks to a National Science Foundation grant.
Modzelewski’s camp teammate Jessi Lelas said she’s unsure what field to follow, but said her eighth-grade teachers Dave Bettine and Jana Mabry at North Bend’s Twin Falls Middle School have encouraged her interest in math and engineering.
Camp co-leader Tracy Roberts said getting folks into a tent is hard when most of them have a driving permit.
“Getting people to go to summer camp at this age is hard,” said Roberts, a teacher at Mount Si High School. “Maybe it’s our age group. What we are asking them to do is something that people tend to do in elementary and middle school.”
In high school, children already know what they like and pursue those things instead of exploring new things.
A similar camp for boys in Oregon filled immediately, Roberts said. A coed camp there filled with boys but the girls’ camp did not fill.
On July 23, the first day of the Mount Si camp, half of the girls did not show up.
Those who did, though, had a ball, with pop music in the background and they pumped their fists whenever the bots did what they were supposed to.
The camp cost $150, with full and partial scholarships available. Money went toward purchasing controllers and other equipment for the robots. The camp brought guest speakers who spoke to the children about different areas of science.
A similar camp has been scheduled for next year, unless enrollment plummets. A coed camp and a boys’ camp may be added, Roberts said.
“It’s exciting,” said Roberts, who first got into science when she was 4, watching spiders build their webs and collecting frogs and baby mice.
Not the route Modzelewski wants to follow. She said she wants to be a neonatologist, helping premature babies, the human kind.
Not the route Lelas wants to follow. She is still leaning toward engineering, though. Especially after this camp.
“It’s a lot less boring than I thought,” Lelas said of the camp. “I thought there would be, like, math equations.”
Sebastian Moraga: 392-6434, ext. 221, or email@example.com. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.