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Robo camp builds education

David Crockett student Austyn Shelton readies the next robot at the robo camp.


Staff Writer

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The Historic Jonesborough Visitor’s Center had a few extra guests Thursday and Friday, July 13 and 14, as the FIRST Robotics Team held a “Robo Camp” for middle school students — a camp designed to give would-be scientists a chance to build robots with the help of David Crockett High School’s robotics students.

But Crockett’s drafting teacher, Guy McAmis said he wasn’t just hoping to see his students assist future Crockett Pioneers at this year’s camp; he was hoping it would pull in students from all across Washington County.

“The reason we’re doing it at the Visitor’s Center is the robotics team is made up of Daniel Boone and also David Crockett High School kids. So we wanted to include both sides of the county,” McAmis said. “I had one that was from the other side of the county. I’m trying to work on that. I want those students over here with us. That’s the reason we’re here instead of doing it at Crockett. That way it’s a neutral place.”

The camp not only serves as an educational event for students in the summertime, but it also serves as a fundraiser for the FIRST Robotics team. Each spot in the camp costs $15 which includes a lunch for both days of the camp and goes towards the robotics team’s fund.

“We want to make this at least an annual thing. We want to use it as a fundraiser,” McAmis explained. “We’re just feeling our way through to see how we want to improve and do it during the school year itself.

“We got to looking at our budget from last year and these kids raised a little over $25,000 to do two events. We’re trying to do these things as fundraisers. (Robo Camp) is successful on a small scale, but we would like to make it a bigger scale.”

The kids worked as a team, building robots out of Legos to compete against the other robo teams in a competition at the end of Thursday and Friday’s sessions. But the middle schoolers aren’t the only ones learning something here; McAmis specifically wanted to involve his high school students in the camp as a learning tool for them as well.

“This is my philosophy; if they teach, they learn. As they’re teaching these kids to program these robots and put them together, they’re learning themselves,” McAmis said. “They’ve got to deal with different personalities to be able to do this. I’ve got a couple in here that are a little on the rambunctious side. And then I’ve got some that their parents wanted them to have something to do. We’ve just had a good time. And they’ve had a good time.”

Apart from learning more about robotics, McAmis is also hoping the camp will spark an interest in some of these middle schoolers. And if these middle schoolers become interested in robotics, they can also join their middle school’s robotics team.

“We want to get these middle schoolers involved early,” he said. “I know there’s one lady whose daughter is here. She said the one daughter’s into sports and the other one’s not. She likes to program things. She’s been here two days and she’s very enthusiastic.

“If I can just get one or two kids who are on fire for this—this is not for everyone, I know that—but if I can get just a couple that really enjoy this, it makes it all worth wild.”