Thanks for a great summer!

The last few days at a WMSI camp is always chaotic. Everyone is so excited to see what we are doing each day; we generally save the more intensive activities for the last few days. Whether our campers are starting a new project or trying their best to finish one from the previous day, it is always crazy.

We started off our very last day with a messy and fun engineering challenge: Build a Tower out of Straws and Shaving Cream.

With the last two days of camp being more open ended, the campers all worked on whatever project they were on.

From SAM (Stop Motion) Animation all the way to wall climbing robots, our campers were working hard with huge smiles on their faces. The phrase 'whistle while you work' never seemed so true. 

As our campers worked, myself, Jess and Kaelin would circle the room looking for those who needed help finishing up.

The incredible part of these last two days was that nobody really required a large amount of attention. Our campers only took on projects that they knew they could finish; it was because of this that we had such cool final products!

Personally, I found the of the coolest parts of this camp, and our campers, was their use of multiple platforms. From computers, to whiteboard, tissue paper and glue, our campers made good use of all the tools they had at their disposal.


Our camps success was clear when we saw the enthusiasm from the campers and the support from their parents on the final day. Many parents showed up to see what amazing creations their children made during their week with us.

With the parents wide eyes and the campers pearly white smiles, we knew this camp had been a great success.

Lay them out and knock 'em down!

So much creation and so much destruction. These are the main factors that influence a persons connection with LEGO's.

Whether you remember that awesome moment when you first had that genius idea or perhaps right before you broke your project down and decided that you will never forget that idea.

From crazy walking robots, to monkey-like climbing robots, and all the way back to human-assisting helper robots. 

Our campers designs were incredible; they took each challenge so far out of the box that I could no longer see the limitations of our LEGO building materials.

While I may have only seen one way to solve a problem, this amazing group of campers were able to look through a multidimensional glass to truly see all the possibilities.


Recycling Ideas and displaying Rubbish

I'm sure most of you have heard of a "Rube Goldberg" machine; if not, it is machine which is a wondrous device which strenuously accomplishes one task. Whether it is flipping a switch or turning a knob, all the machine needs to do is complete a simple task.

The twist is that is has to be the craziest, most complex design you've ever seen. The bigger the better; the more intense and difficult to work with, the better.

These crazy machines aren't made for functionality, they are made for entertainment and the 'Wow Factor'.

Our campers spent hours working on this epic machine in pairs, but ultimately, it was the entire group of campers that made this machine come together.

In the end it was the smiles on our campers faces that made this project come to life. Even if they didn't get to finish their portion of the machine, they were able to show us where they were going with their ideas and as I have said before; it is those ideas that are most important.

Fresh faces and a new look

Each camp we have is greeted with high anticipation from both the counselors and the campers. It was only this week that I highly anticipated a new learning opportunity. Normally I am just excited to see what each camper creates. This time, however, I was excited to see how differently that girls think about things and how they attack problems.

Whether in a group or all alone, the girls in our Inventors Camp tended to work together more often then separately.

In a group or not, our campers used each other as a main resource.

I can't believe the differences between genders. Being a boy, I suppose I stereotyped that we really weren't all that different in our methods of thought; it turns out I was very wrong. Both boys and girls have their own ways of thinking, both effective in their own ways.

I can't wait to see what our campers are able to produce for tomorrow!

Ready, Set, Educate!

How do you define or exemplify a group of extremely talented WMSI LEGO Engineers? By giving them the project of their dreams!

The Sumo-Bots went excellent, I mean who wouldn't want to design and engineer your own structurally robust robot? It was only natural that our builders wanted more of this.

Now normally we like to shake up our projects and do something crazy, and epic for the last few days of Robot Design Studio; this time, however, we decided to give them what they wanted, an advanced Sumo-Robot Project.

Two teams each with two campers, two counselors, 3 EV3 LEGO Bricks and 12 motors. How could this possibly deny our camp of some amazing creations. We knew that with our talented group of campers that they would not only see this as a fun project, but also as an engineering and programming challenge. It is only because of their "Varsity" builder status that we found this to be an appropriate multi-day build.

Besides making awesome robots and slamming them together, what will the campers get out of this? Normally in our camps and workshops we focus on concept development, iterative design, working with others and just basic engineering and programming skills.

This time, however, we added in a few new challenges for our campers to master.

Graceful movement, or proportional control was one of the biggest challenges for our campers. Understanding P.I.D. is a high level, high school or college concept, and we wanted our campers to understand how it all works. By breaking it down into a simple explanation we had campers grades 5-9 understanding how proportional control works; along with realizing how this can apply to a function and well-designed robot.

From there we moved to structural and mechanical engineering. Protecting the important parts of the robot, while using as few pieces as possible to reduce weight and prevent parts from breaking during the tournament.

With our campers being so advanced, we didn't just stop at engineering. Our campers have worked with Teleoperation by creating their own Bluetooth remote controls, as well as using a gyroscope to collect data during the tournament. This data will become invaluable when we look back to see what really happened during the tournament and what each robot designer did to improve their robot and what they could have done differently to change how the matches played out.

Above all else the most amazing thing we've seen (If you can believe there is anything more impressive than getting our campers genuinely interested in data collection and math) is their ability to work so well together; I am not just talking about within each team, I'm talking about across teams.

We set these campers up in a competitive scenario and they are still bouncing ideas off the other team. They are testing their bots against each other, offering tips and tricks to improve; all we really want is a fun and enjoyable match, and that is exactly what these campers are driving towards.

So in the past two days we have gone from Prep and Design to Iteration and finalization. With all the work these campers have invested into these robots, I know tomorrow will be a blast!

Guts, Glory, ROBOTS!

We all know destroying machines is fun, no matter what materials are used. This is why LEGO Robots lend themselves so well to Battlebots. The fun of building and re-engineering the robots combined with the durability and sophistication of LEGO engineering and design.

Today we took it upon ourselves to become engineers of LEGO Sumo-Bots. Sumo-Bots is essentially the same idea as Battlebots, but without the focus on weapons and more focus on design, and physics principals.

Having friction, or a large wall in the right place at the right time can be a game-changer. With today being spent on the design and testing, campers were able to modify and adjust their robots to their fighting style and their robots strengths. 

The incredibly useful element LEGO adds to these Sumo-Bots is their rapid iteration. Being able to adjust your robot before and in-between fights can make a huge difference and it also helps teach our campers how to build and design and think, on the fly.

With such amazing designs, I can't explain these robots as well as I can show them. If you consider the amount of work these robots took to get to this point (I didn't even mention designing the controllers and actually getting the remote controls to work) it is simply amazing what our campers have done!

How do you want it? BIGGER!

With Robot Design Studio starting this week, we knew we wanted to take our builds to the next level. With epic engineering challenges at the beginning of the week, and multi-day builds afterwards, we knew we were in for a jam-packed week.

The starting pistol shot off and so the designers began to plan their builds. Each with a different design of how to build their sorting robots.

Their challenge was to sort out a red and blue ball and return them to the bins, what they didn't realize was how difficult this could be. Unpredicted size and rotation variables made this challenge especially hard.

Difficulty engineering proper designs led to incredibly creative programming; as well as the frequent use of sensors to assist in the task.

In the end everyone came out on top with their own creative, imaginative and impressive builds.

Knowing what we have in store for tomorrow, I can tell you my writing may be compelling, but the videos and photos of tomorrows work will be unbelievably cool.

Jam-packed with fun, until there's no sun!

As you may have noticed, we at WMSI like to work up until the very last minute. We want to fill every second of our Maker Camp with awesome, epic experiments and activities. It is only until that clock hits 2:00PM that we stop, take a breath and realize the day is done.

Each day after the camp is closed we clean up the area and refine what we have planned for our next day. From crazy science experiments to professional quality game design, we try to fit everything we can think of into one week. It is always sad when the camp is finally over and everyone leaves, but we always keep our ideas and creations in the back of our minds.

While departure is saddening, camp itself is a blast, literally!

With Mad Science experiments on Thursday, and custom made game designing on Friday, we tried to expose our campers to a wide berth of cool, creative and unique.

By harnessing the power of the Sun, we were able to cook, craft and create Solar ovens which reached up to 140 degrees!!

From there we turned to biology, dying flowers with our favorite colors.

Of course we ended Thursday with a bang! With three awesome and unique experiments, Oobleck, Volcanoes and Pepper-water with Soap. Each of these experiments showed our campers what some simple household materials can do.

With camp coming to a close today we figured we should do something they all seemed to truly enjoy. After finding out that WMSI's "GameStar" games were featured on the game alley, we decided we wanted everyone in our camp to know how special and impressive their work was.

Throughout the day we discussed all the different types of controllers that game consoles have used over the years. Along with our awesome "Maker" controller, called the MaKeyMaKey, which essentially lets you turn anything into a controller. This added a whole new dynamic to our campers games; from there they just started exploring all the possibilities within our game designing tools.

With a seemingly rapid trip from 12:45-2:00PM we ended the day with some amazing long exposure pictures, each picture as unique as the creator.

There is only two words that can describe this group of Makers: Simply Amazing.

If you solder, they will come!

What a way to start the day, explaining how we light up our world in the 21st Century. Now normally most of our campers wouldn't be interested in a light bulb, but what if you broke each light source down to it's unique properties?

For the majority of the day we spent time explaining how halogen lights work differently than LEDs, and what the benefits and downsides of both are. From there we found unique ways to use these different light sources. From making (soon to be) solar ovens, and testing them with a halogen light; to using LEDs to dress up otherwise static images, and from there, learning to solder.

Soldering, in my opinion, is a fantastic life skill. From bikes, cars, and electrical wiring to everything in-between, soldering can be used for repairs. The other truth is that soldering is just plain fun. Melting metals to act as a kind of conductive glue is pretty cool, and for one of our campers to convert a metal to a liquid, and then back again, is pretty incredible.

Today we combined origami, circuitry and soldering to make some amazing STEM based crafts. What is even more amazing is that your son/daughter will be able to take the skills they learned today and apply them to the rest of their lives!

Before soldering

After solder has been applied

If you know WMSI, you know we always end everything with a wow factor, so how about a fire-breathing dragon?

Don't tell them there is knowledge inside!

It's always a huge win when you find something fun, and engaging that also teaches valuable lessons. For years teachers have been developing fun and exciting lessons plans to jazz up dry, and slow education. We have seen how positive an exciting and interesting learning environment is, and what the benefits are.

We nailed this awesome learning environment with "Video Game Day." Recently video games have become the talk of the town, either for entertainment or education purposes; they have become a fantastic way to share information with massive groups of people.

We decided we would take advantage of this and had our campers work with two different game designing programs. The first was Scratch 2.0, a basic yet hard to master, visual programming software. This allowed our campers to learn the basics of logical computerized thinking and quick and rapid programming.

Our main issue with Scratch is that it has a steep learning curve after the basics, so besides basic programming it tends to be hard to use Scratch as a teaching tool. This is when we turned to the website: This website was made to help teach level design and game development.

Gamestar Mechanic is an amazingly powerful tool, giving the users the ability to rapidly prototype and test their levels, as they play through the websites own storyline. This built in storyline allows the users (Our campers) to unlock new things (Blocks, Backgrounds, Enemies and Players) that they can use in their levels.

The most amazing part of it all is that both of these programs can be used from home; this allows our campers to continue their work outside of WMSI which is our main goal as a non-profit.

Spielberg got nothing on us!

Welcome, welcome, welcome! To those of you just tuning into our blog, welcome to Maker Camp. I know I had a blast today and I know our campers did as well!

Today we focused on film making, specifically stop-motion animation. We used LEGO's, crafting supplies, and imagination to build the props and sets for our epic movies. Generally I would go through explaining what we did today, but because we did movies I think I will just show you the films!

Enjoy our videos and be sure to show all your friends and family members the awesome creations made at camp!

Well, what else is left to be said. These campers are amazing and we at WMSI cannot wait to see what else they will create this week.

All's fair in Love and Robots

WMSI doesn't give limits to what can be built, though we do use constraints. We have always felt that constraints to a build design help support creativity. It forces our campers to think out side of the box, when they can't use a regular tool. Well, how about thinking of a tool that has no purpose?

It can be harder than you'd think to come up with a machine that does literally nothing, and that was our first challenge today. We tasked our campers to build a "Useless Machine."

Similar to a Rube Goldberg Machine, these robotic machines are designed to do nothing besides entertain. Such as, a light switch that turns itself off.

Or a box that opens the bottom once something has been placed inside.

Even a car that rips itself apart would qualify; as long as it gets you nowhere, it's a useless machine.

From there we did a total 180 and started focusing on machines with purpose. We asked our campers to brainstorm ideas of machines that would help them with their "Daily Struggles." It was very interesting to see them go from one mindset to another.

All these amazing ideas came forward and the inspiration came from their day-to-day lives, or even the lives of their families. It was a great way to end our last day, our campers were able to apply what they learned over this past week to their own personal life experience; it is that kind of connection to your work that brings forth amazing results!

I want to thank everyone for coming to our Robot Camp this summer! I had a blast and I know all the other staff and (I hope) campers had just as much fun. We hope to see you next year, if not sooner at one of our workshops!

Our Future Leaders of America

Everyday at WMSI Robot Camp we are amazed by what our campers come up with. Today's theme of Renewable energy took that to a whole new level. It was unbelievable to see how creative our campers were with their "Future Technologies" designs.

Words cannot completely describe the complexity of these project, so for today, I will show you!

Passion is our renewable resource.

Passion is our renewable resource.

Peer through the ordinary to find the extraordinary!

Peer through the ordinary to find the extraordinary!

WMSI is all about Open Source, sharing ideas to better something that already exists. From counselors to campers and everything in-between, we are a melting pot of quality design and production!

WMSI is all about Open Source, sharing ideas to better something that already exists. From counselors to campers and everything in-between, we are a melting pot of quality design and production!

Pride in your products is what pushes production forward!

Pride in your products is what pushes production forward!

Hamster wheels are the power of the future! While it may not exist right now, our campers have ideas for the future of the world!

Hamster wheels are the power of the future! While it may not exist right now, our campers have ideas for the future of the world!

That moment when you finally get that last piece on and your project goes from fantasy to reality.

That moment when you finally get that last piece on and your project goes from fantasy to reality.

From concept to creation, our campers have a goal in mind and they carry it until they finish.

From concept to creation, our campers have a goal in mind and they carry it until they finish.

Electricity doesn't power this machine! It is the mind of the designer and the will of the driver that moves it forward!

Electricity doesn't power this machine! It is the mind of the designer and the will of the driver that moves it forward!

A vehicle powered off of morning dew, talk about an unused resource!

A vehicle powered off of morning dew, talk about an unused resource!

A mobile, wind-powered, powerplant....boy that was a mouthful!

A mobile, wind-powered, powerplant....boy that was a mouthful!

A new version of a hybrid car, powered by both electricity and wind power. Imagine how many miles you could go before a charge!

A new version of a hybrid car, powered by both electricity and wind power. Imagine how many miles you could go before a charge!

With turbine power for the big one and elastic potential energy for the small car, this camper had many renewable energy ideas; as a matter of fact he had to make two vehicles to cover it.

With turbine power for the big one and elastic potential energy for the small car, this camper had many renewable energy ideas; as a matter of fact he had to make two vehicles to cover it.

If only the Flintstones had this idea, a geared man/lady-powered car, they would have made it out of Bedrock.

If only the Flintstones had this idea, a geared man/lady-powered car, they would have made it out of Bedrock.

Active solar panels that track the sun, I think Ford just started working on this technology, too bad our campers thought of it first!

Active solar panels that track the sun, I think Ford just started working on this technology, too bad our campers thought of it first!

Wind is the way, traveling wind turbines will be able to track the best spots to collect energy.

Wind is the way, traveling wind turbines will be able to track the best spots to collect energy.

Butlers, Constructs, and Art?

When I first started working with LEGO, I always saw it as a robot building tool.  I never really took my thoughts outside the box, either using crafting materials to build with LEGOs, or even just using them for something other than mechanical design work.

It is because of this that Bill and I started classes in LEGO Spin Art. We took cut paper and applied it to a LEGO spinner we designed. From there the campers were able to combine the LEGO's with crafting supplies (such as markers and pens) to make some amazing art.

Art, generally being more organic is very free-form or at least a large portion of the art we see was made by human hands. What makes these spin art designs so unique is the fact that we combined both the artistic side of humans and the precision side of the robots (LEGOs). It is these unique combinations that help encourage our campers to really think outside the box.

Our theme for the day essentially became "Pushing your limits too see what is possible." We gave our campers a ton of time today to brainstorm, plan and plot out their final assembly builds. This began with videos showing assembly lines and ended with real-time practice with their own creations.

While the robots themselves are always amazing and the things our campers create never cease to amaze us; the real spectacle was how the pairs worked together. Nobody had issue working in groups and each pair was able to decide one project they wanted to pursue.

What came of this was partners (who may or may not know each other) working towards each others strengths, asking for help and building as a complete pair.

They didn't care if one was older than the other or one was female or male;  just that you were in it to win it!

Welcome to the Apocalypse

Entering into a wasteland of robot parts and forgotten ideas, humans are no longer the dominant species; yes, it is true, the Maker is now the true King of the Jungle.

Each day our campers come in to create, break apart and rebuild, over and over. One could imagine that destroying a fantastic build at the end of the day would be sad, but we at WMSI make sure it is a fun experience. We (Campers and Counselors) take a brief moment of silence to remember our builds and drop our ideas into the back of our minds for later, and then, we disassemble!

It is these ideas that our campers save which will then improve their future builds. Each design builds upon the previous and influences the next and this is how we structure our summer cams and workshops. We start with a simple foundation and then we slowly build upon it, each time destroying that foundation to start with a newer stronger foundation for our next skill building activity.

This is why I call it the apocalypse; parts, robots and pieces are destroyed but never forgotten, and you can usually look around the room and ask others to remind of what once was. Nobody forgets an amazing project they built, in fact I'm certain when you pick your son/daughter up they are ranting and raving about what they've done; excited and thrilled to show off their amazing ideas and work.

Today our Apocalyptic wasteland was populated with animals of all kinds, from snakes, to gorillas, alligators and even dancing animals, we had it all. These animals, however, were not created from thin air, but from the hands of a Maker.

Our Makers came in many forms today, from doctors and mechanics to engineers and idealists; everyone contributed to the amazing pool of ideas our WMSI Wasteland holds.

Unfortunately the wasteland is not forgiving and these animals will only last a short while, but the ideas, those live on forever. 

Which seat is mine?

Everyone remembers their first few days of school each year. Always nervous about who is in your class, who you are sitting next to and how strict your teacher will be; then once you actually get in your class you realize you're surrounded by people just like you.

Everyone walked into Robot Camp with open eyes and ears. Some campers knew other campers and some were even new to New Hampshire, regardless they all had something in common - their great love for designing robots. We looked at our class roster in he morning and decided on groups. We tried to pair campers together based on skill level and design style, anticipating that this would help make powerful and happy groups. Even though approximately 80% of the group members didn't know each other, they came around to the idea of building together and because of that, they succeeded.

As the day carried on our groups would work together, either building half a project or creating a hybrid of ideas in order to trump today's challenge, an uphill derby.

Utilizing a multitude of designs every group conquered the challenge in a different way. Pulling from their previous experiences and looking around the room and gathering examples, each group built what they thought to be the ultimate climber. Whether their build focused on the programming or engineering side, they all worked in pairs to achieve a feat of LEGO magic, conquering gravity and forcing an otherwise purposeless pile of LEGO parts up a ramp.

From treads, to wheels to ball bearings and more, every build's layout, programming and final design were so vastly different that each time a robot made it to the top, it got a round of applause.

I know myself and my fellow counselors had a blast and we hope our campers did as well. We look forward to seeing what they have in store for the future.

A White Mountain Orchestra

As the first day of Robot Camp approaches, WMSI enters full swing into our Summer Camp Preparations. From testing ideas to setting up the classroom, everyone at WMSI is hustling around to get everything done before 5:00pm hits.

Each day of preparation for camp is always an experience. Our camp curriculum dictates what we will be testing during each day of preparation. As of right now we are testing out our WMSI symphony. Each participant will be able to design and build an instrument and with the help of a talented WMSI conductor, we will pull together a great spectacle of auditory magic.

I always find it interesting that from Day 1 to Day 5 our plans for camp always get more and more extreme. It always works out well because we have such a variation in skill levels within our camps; this also give us a huge variety of final products which is always amazing and astounding.

Even as I write this post there is creating, designing and exploring happening all around me. From LEGOs, to paint and soldering, WMSI's brain never sleeps and neither do our creative ideas!

Crank it up and let it go!

My work at WMSI has always been like a wind up car; I pull back at the end of the day, storing all my energy up overnight, ready for the next day, and when 9AM hits I let it go. All that power and drive pushes me through the day, designing, creating and inventing for the young minds that desire it so greatly. 

After spending these first few months with WMSI I have realized that anything is possible. All that drive and energy I have at the beginning of the day is due to the encouragement and assistance my coworkers provide; this is why we make such a fantastic organization. Bill Church has pulled together the ultimate Brain Trust of the North Country. We all come from different backgrounds and have all had difference experiences which is what makes us such a formidable force when it comes to problem solving.

It is an amazing feeling to give a budding mind a box of LEGOs and ask them: "How far do you want to take it?" I have had many experiences where the question "Can I?" is answered with: "No, I'm sorry but that just isn't possible." Here at WMSI I have seen countless examples of the question being flipped, we don't hear participants asking if they can do something, they just ask how long they have to work.