February Vacation Camps 2017!

By Jeremy Knowlton

After a brief hiatus, WMSI Workshops were up and running again last week with three days of challenges, laughs, and adventures! 

We kicked off vacation workshops with an interesting blend of robotics and crafts. the challenge? Build a you-sized, pet-sized, or me-sized robot using cardboard and LEGO Mindstorm robotics kits. Students went a bunch of different ways with this, building sharks, trams, ocean waves, and race cars. 

Meanwhile, other students took recycle art to the next level by putting markers and a motor on their favorite carton or tin can. Next, they powered up the motor, which spun around an uneven weight and caused the "squiggle bot" to zoom around, drawing all sorts of sweet designs. 

Participants challenged themselves in a whole different way the next day. As students filed into the WREN classroom, they were greeted with a lineup of fruits and vegetables. Their first challenge was to find conductive materials (such as a sweet potato) and make a functioning electrical piano using these materials as buttons. Giggles filled the room during this experimentation as participants set up bananas, apples, and scissors to act as piano keys. Students then took what they just learned and used that knowledge to design fully functioning game controllers!

 After designing a Mario controller, these students decided to hack the code and make Mario fly!

After designing a Mario controller, these students decided to hack the code and make Mario fly!

 A very cool Nintendo classic game controller design!

A very cool Nintendo classic game controller design!

Our last day came with a buzz of excitement and snippets of tech savvy conversation bouncing around. Words like "mods", "redstone", and "monster generators" were common. We've learned that there are few things more exciting in this world than playing a multiplayer game of Minecraft with 10 of your friends right beside you. Each student logged onto a laptop and had a 15 minute warm up on an obstacle based world. After that, game faces were on. The STEM challenge? You have a village at the base of a volcano. You have 25 minutes to prepare your homes before two volcanoes explode and pour lava down towards your home. The noise level rose dramatically as students zoned in and teamed up to take on this real world challenge. Some groups prepared walls. Others took apart their homes, put those parts in a chest, and hid that chest far away from town! One group even crafted and prepared a water dispenser on top of their house, hypothesizing that lava, when mixed with water, would turn to obsidian before it affected their homes. 

 Brainstorming to solve challenges. 

Brainstorming to solve challenges. 

 Crafting to survive. 

Crafting to survive. 

The challenge was a fantastic success, with all homes surviving and participants happy with their designs. Later, we finished up with some survival mode challenges where students worked together to craft what they needed to survive mobs of monsters. 

Thanks to parents, participants, and leaders for making our workshops awesome!

We hope to see you at our April and summer vacation camps soon!