IHMC concludes summer robotics camp


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Posted July 22, 2022 | By Shannon Nickinson
Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition

If Luiz Agustin-Sanchez grows up to be an engineer, IHMC might be able to claim a little credit.

Luiz is a rising sophomore at North Marion High School and has had an interest in robots since he was a kid. Thanks to the week he spent at Robotics Camp at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition’s Ocala campus, he has an idea of what he might want to be.

“I liked building and testing the robot,” he said. “This camp is also much more hands-on than most other camps.”

That chance for hands-on learning is a key part of IHMC’s 2022 summer camp experience. Robotics Camp is one of IHMC’s signature community outreach efforts for students, which also includes Science Saturdays, a school-year science enrichment program, and school-year field trips.

Robotics Camp is one of the best times of year at IHMC. It is when the doors open wide — and the next generation of scientists walk through. IHMC staff led some 40 students in grades 8-10 through the basics of robotics, coding, and problem-solving.

Dr. Ursula Schwuttke is the director of educational outreach for both IHMC’s Pensacola and Ocala campuses. She organizes Robotics Camp and the Science Saturday series, which both are meant to spur a love of science in students so that the best and brightest minds are inspired to look for what’s next.

“Fun science gives kids the ability to discover their interest and ability in science, and to develop self-confidence,” says Schwuttke. “Opportunity is vitally important for kids. Without the opportunity to discover their interest, they can’t know that it’s something they should pursue.”

While assembling and programming the robots is of course the fun part, a highlight of camp is the chance to meet and mingle with researchers on the IHMC team. This year, Research Scientists Archna Bhatia, Ian Perera, and Arash Mahyari made presentations to campers about their research at IHMC and afterwards, sat for “lunch with a scientist.” Ben Thompson and Rachael Martin from Lockheed Martin also made a presentation about engineering careers and did “lunch with an engineer.”

“I enjoy helping and talking to all the students about engineering career advice,” Thompson said. “I hope, even in a small way, to inspire them to work in STEM careers.”

Anthony Gentry, a rising eighth-grader at Howard Middle School, enjoyed learning to code in the Python programming language; he also liked learning more about how to work in teams.

“With all the robot challenges, there was always something to do,” he said.

Robotics Camp is sponsored in Ocala by Cox, Lockheed Martin, Renasant Bank, CareerSource Florida, Ocala Electric Utility and Mid-Florida Regional Manufacturers Association. Their support made camp possible and helped create a pipeline for IHMC to share what we love about science with students in every corner of the community.

We can’t wait to see everyone next summer.