Thursday, June 29, 2017

STEM Camp 2017- Best STEM Camp Ever (until next year)!

Today, the Moore County Digital team is wrapping up our 5th annual summer STEM Camp and it's safe to say this has been the biggest and best one yet!

For those that don't know, our summer STEM Camp is offered as a 4-day camp for two consecutive weeks (it runs as two stand-alone weeks with a different group of kids each week).  During STEM Camp, our students are exposed to cutting edge technology, amazing guest speakers, loads of great STEM career options, and are able to think and act like real engineers.  It is open to rising 3rd-8th graders and this year we also opened an Advanced Robotics camp that included students in grades 9 and 10.  Tuition is $160 for the week, which includes all lunches, snacks, and a free t-shirt.

Simply put- this is the best camp in North Carolina, PERIOD!  Our DIF team works tirelessly to provide the best possible experience for the 200+ students that attend.

Check out all the pictures and videos from STEM Camp this year!

Each year, our camp has a theme.  This year, our theme was aviation.  We worked in partnership with the Moore County Airport to provide a top-notch experience and exposure to real people who have been successful in the aviation career pathway.  Each of 4 rooms in the camp worked on different aviation related tasks and challenges.  Here are the things our students got to experience this year:

Room One:  Rockets and Thrust Structures

Mr. Rogers, Mrs. Priest, and Ms. Boesch worked with students through the engineering process, where they were given the task to produce a thrust structure from cardboard, Popsicle sticks, and hot glue.  The structure had to be strong enough to not break apart through 3 consecutive launches into "lower orbit" (ie, launch the water bottle to the top of the metal rod without flying off).  Students had to do a ton of critical thinking in this room- deciding on their design, managing their materials budget to make their structures strong but cheap, figuring out how much water the rocket should hold, how much sand the launch mechanism should hold, and how high their launch mechanism should be held to produce the correct amount of lift.

At the end of the week, students created presentations to try and convince NASA to purchase their thrust structures.  A lot of fun mess was had by all!

Room Two:  3D Printed Wing Designs
Ms. Alderson and Mr. Martin worked with students to design wings to test for lift.  Students learned how to use Tinkercad, an accessible 3D design program we use often with students.  After completing their designs, we had three 3D printers churning their designs out all week.  Once their designs were printed, it was time for testing!

Ms. Alderson's father-in-law built a custom wind tunnel for all of our student testing.  Students placed their design into the wind tunnel and turned the wind on high.  Students had to intently observe how their design fared and whether or not it achieved lift.  After discussions about design, shape, and thinking about why some achieved lift and others didn't, it was back to Tinkercad to work on improving their designs in hopes of achieving lift (or better / more stable lift) with the new and improved versions.  Students did an excellent job with this engineering process and learned a lot!

Room Three:  Mars Rovers and App Creation
Ms. Reynolds and Ms. Snotherly created an awesome experience for students in the Mars Rover room!  The elementary students were tasked with creating a livable habitat on Mars out of a boatload of craft materials (cardboard, tape, ribbon, paint, confetti, etc.).  The other task they needed to complete was the creation of a Mars Rover out of our Lego WeDo kits.  This rover was built to navigate the landscape successfully.

Our middle school campers worked with Ms. Reynolds to create apps using the MIT AppInventor program. Students were totally engaged in creating their Mars-related apps and testing them out on Android tablets that were provided.  We definitely sparked some future programmers this week in this room!

Room Four:  Drone Obstacle Course
Ms. Collazo and Ms. Robledo led our Parrot Drone room and it was a huge hit!  After being introduced to the many careers that are popping up around the world that involve drones, students were tasked in teams to collaborate and design an obstacle course object for their drones to fly through.  But here was the catch- they only had $100 to spend at the "Drone Depot", where they could purchase items such as PVC pipe in 2-ft and 4-ft lengths, PVC pipe connectors, and various lengths of rope.

After creating their obstacle, students headed off to the gym to learn how to program drones to fly in a set, autonomous way as well as how to manually fly their drones.  Finally, on the last day each team got to attempt to manually fly their drones through multiple obstacle courses they had built and carried to the gym.  Students loved the experience and learned a ton!

Advanced Robotics Room
A brand new addition to STEM Camp this year, the Advanced Robotics room worked with 9 rising 8th-10th graders to get their hands on designing, building, and programming advanced robotics to complete challenging tasks.  Led by Mr. Herring and Ms. Holmes, students were given an intense crash course on how to be successful builders and programmers.  The growth our students made in this week was incredible and we look to expand this offering next year!

Guest Speakers
We were also proud to offer our campers some exposure to some amazing guest speakers throughout the course of camp.  Lt. Col Ana-Maria Ehrler spoke about her experience as a combat pilot.  Lt. Tim Davis and Detective Shane Fogle from the Moore County Sheriff's department brought and demonstrated a drone they use in their police work and described how it helps keep them and the public safer.  Paul Von Hardenberg, a former mechanical engineer with Sikorsky Aircraft, spoke to students about the engineering process as well as how helicopters achieve lift.  All of our guest speakers made our camp a richer, more authentic experience for kids.

Finally, we had some great surprises in store for our students this year that could not have happened without our partnership with the Moore County Airport.  On the Monday of each camp, we invited Greg Hudson, the CEO, to land his helicopter on the front lawn of New Century Middle School.  Needless to say, the kids were totally caught by surprise when helicopter came in and really enjoyed learning about it from Mr. Hudson after he landed.

And, last but CERTAINLY not least, the airport allowed all of the kids to come and take a tour and talk to real pilots, flight controllers, and aviation mechanics.  Our students got to get up close and personal with many types of aircraft and learn from the experts what it takes to be successful in their field.  And the cherry on top came at the end of camp- our students were given the opportunity to go up for a free flight with the Airport's Young Eagles program.  Unfortunately, our first week of campers were rained out but received a rain check for the fall.  But, in the 2nd week the skies stayed clear and calm as over 80 students went up in the air, many of which for the very first time!  Truly a thrilling end to a great STEM Camp!

Finally, we would like to thank the entire DIF team for their extremely hard work in providing the best summer camp in North Carolina.  We'd also like to thank the Airport Authority for partnering with us to provide opportunities for students they will never forget.  We'd like to thank all of our guest speakers for sharing their knowledge of their fields.  And, finally, thanks to all the Moore County Schools' support from top to bottom, thanks to New Century for hosting, and thanks to the parents for trusting us with your kids this year.  We truly enjoyed it!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Middle School Competition and Regional Competitions 2017

   Last year Moore County held its first middle school robotics competition, which was a fantastic success. Not only did we continue to provide the competition for middle school students in our county, but we extended the invitation out to other counties as well. We held our first middle school regional competition this year, which definitely upped the ante for robotics. Middle school competitions were held back to back on Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20th. All of the participants did such an outstanding job and it is apparent that robotics has really taken off in the region!

   Scotland County joined our "American Cities" themed competition with open arms, and participated in the elementary showcase too. Scotland County had at least one team from each middle school attend our regionals. The competition for middle school consisted of a series of challenges that were much different than the elementary showcase. For example, we had two First tech Challenge (FTC) fields set up, one depicting an urban environment and one depicting an rural environment. In addition, the students had to build an arm to throw a football and design their robot to pull "snow" on a sled. Lastly, there was also the crowd pleasing Battle Bots! These robotics events drew many people from Scotland and Moore County, with many other counties inquiring about these events throughout the year. Next year, it is our goal to have many more counties participate.
   The apparatuses that students created for these events at regionals was absolutely amazing! The competition in general, aside from being fun, really challenged the kids in engineering, problem solving, and teamwork. It is out goal to continue to challenge students in this way, so they are prepared for advanced robotics concepts and 21st century skills.


   Below are pictures from the Middle School Regional Competition and we hope you can help spread the word about robotics in your county! Thank you to all of our schools, staff, and coaches that participated in these extraordinary events!

MCS Regional Middle School Competition

~Deanna Boesch

Elementary Robotics and Regional Competitions 2017

   Robotics in Moore County this year has definitely stepped it up a notch. Not only did we continue to provide showcases and competitions for our elementary and middle school students, but we extended the invitation out to other counties. We held our first regional competitions this year, which were a great success! The elementary competitions were held back to back on Friday, May 12th and Saturday, May 13th. All of the participants did such an outstanding job and it is apparent that robotics has exploded through the region.
   This year in addition to holding the robotics part of the competition, we introduced a Dash competition as well. Students were able to showcase their knowledge in navigating their Dash robot through a series of challenges on map like mat. This competition was hosted by Digital Facilitators (DIF's) Kelly Priest, Clint Rogers, and Kim Collazo. They did an outstanding job of building up our younger kids coding skills, to prepare them for robotics in the coming years! 
We had our first every Dash competition!
   Scotland County gladly joined the challenge and at least one team from EVERY elementary school participated in our elementary competition. The Scotland county Superintendent and many other county members were in attendance and it was evident that they had a great time enjoying their students learn, struggle, and then succeed. From speaking with Superintendent Ron Hargrave, he stated that, "we have many students that have struggled academically this year. As soon as they started with robotics we noticed a change in their behavior and motivation." That is such a refreshing and heart warming statement to hear as a Moore County Digital Integration Facilitator. It is what we all strive for! We are hoping in the next year that more counties will attend our regional competitions. 

North Laurinburg Polar Bears
 So much can be learned from participating in a robotics competition. Not only did the teams display teamwork and cooperation, but complex problem solving and engineering, which is at the heart of Moore County's principles. Thank you to all of our schools, teachers, and staff that participated in these extraordinary events!

MCS Regional Elementary Competition

~Deanna Boesch