WMSI Mobile Camps Across The North Country!

By Jeremy Knowlton

WMSI's first ever mobile summer camps wrapped up last week with lots of grinning faces and awesome completed STEM projects! WMSI Campers in Gorham, Milan, and Lancaster have been absorbed with the fun challenge of following the design process, enjoying their mistakes rather than fearing them, and following their passions while tinkering on awesome creations. With looks of concentration and frequent giggles, WMSI Mobile Campers created everything under the sun, including animated soccer games, complicated maze codes on Python, ziplines, 3D prints, robotic dogs, and so much more!

Participants in these camps started with the fun challenge of animating LEGOS using stop motion animation, a process which strings many still pictures together to making a movie. Soon, dragons were soaring and LEGO battles were raging! Some students took the challenge a step further and created movies about their passions, such as whiteboard soccer games, mountain rescues with helicopters, and space themed exploration! 

We also dug into aeronautical design at camp, using paper airplanes, paper helicopters, paper circles, and laser cut balsa wood planes to test what shapes fly best. There were many rubber band powered balsa wood planes that had head on collisions with our STEM van (above)! Giggles were had be all. 

 A variation on our challenge: an ink slinger! very unique.

A variation on our challenge: an ink slinger! very unique.

 A well designed circle drawer!

A well designed circle drawer!

With many good STEM projects, there is often an artistic portion, whether its in designing a beautiful laptop casing (Steve Jobs was very serious about having macbooks look awesome) or creating a drawing robot (above). We tasked students with creating this drawing robot by attaching hobby motors to a base. Students then attached offset weight to a rotating gear, causing large amounts of vibration. Grins grew as marker legs skittered around on paper, creating circles, squiggles, and zig zags. The coolest part of the activity was the redesigning process. Students modified their builds by moving the motor and changing the offset weight, creating different patterns. They then created hypotheses as to why their modifications led to different results! Cool science!

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We also explored a rapid prototyping tool at STEM camp: the 3D printer! Engineers use these tools to quickly test designs they have before taking the time to create a sturdier/larger model. Students began this challenge by exploring a 3D modeling software called Tinkercad. This software allowed them to create complex objects using basic shapes and virtual carving tools. Students used the software to create several different types of necklace charms. Some students created Pokemon characters (this was a very popular choice!) while others designed natural objects like flowers! One student even designed an outline of New hampshire (above), even including local objects like arrow heads in the design!

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Of course, with any WMSI STEM camp, there's always excitement surrounding coding games. Knowing how to use a computer language is now a significant part of many jobs. Students first started with using Python to code in Minecraft (above). 

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Students first used Python to generate structures, such as massive towers of lava and TNT as well as huge castles made out of glass, diamonds, and even water melon (an undervalued building material!)

Next, students used loops and conditional statements to create obstacle courses, mazes, and speed games with lots of trigger blocks and traps! One student even created a water and diamond course that had hidden TNT generating code, leading to a quick trip back to the beginning if you accidentally stepped on the trigger block!

At the end of each camp, we had one final independent capstone project. This challenge had much less structure and offered a chance for students to apply what they learned during the week with their favorite STEM tool. We started with a group brain storming, discussing how to work efficiently in an independent setting. we also discussed how to frame a project in order to stay on task and finish before a deadline. Students took off with this challenge, quickly scribbling down plans onto white boards and jumping straight into the design process of ideate, build, test and re-build! 

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Students created useful robotics tools, such as the glorious cheek massager (patent pending). Some students explored stop motion animation, creating intergalactic rollercoasters, space birds, and star explosions! (above). Some students wanted to follow along with evolution and create mammals out of LEGO Mindstorm kits. One student even created a dog with animated eyes and several different sensor triggered tricks! (below) We even had some game design projects, with students exploring the coding and story telling behind good level-based design using Scratch and Gamestar Mechanic. One student even hand coded blasters, randomized bad guys, and level-ups using Scratch! (below)

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All in all, our Mobile camps in Gorham, Lancaster, and Milan were great fun! We're so proud of all of these campers for their excitement and progress within STEM. We hope to see you all at another WMSI program soon!