NUBOTS Summer Camp

Twenty-three Ogden teens have learned lofty lessons the week of July 6, about forging relationships, collaborating with a new friend and setting goals for a higher education.

On a more down-to-earth level, the kids built and programmed battle robots whose only purpose is to shove all others out of the winner's circle.

At NUBOTS summer camp, cosponsored by Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College and Weber State University, the mission is education and fun, with an eye toward educational opportunities to come.

"The students spend time on two college campuses, and they interact with instructors and with professors, all in a short period of time," said Andrew Brown, recruitment specialist at OWATC. "This is our fourth year, and I know of eight students who went on to study at OWATC, and now are planning to go to Weber State for their degrees."

Jeremy Farner, WSU Engineering Technology assistant professor, said the technical college and the university work well as NUBOTS partners.

"We show the students that technology and engineering are fun," Farner said. "Most of the kids have zero experience in robotics or design. They can take an idea they have, and in four days, build something unique. We've had kids build swinging robotic arms, and shovels to tip other robots over. These kids are the most advanced group I have had. They are used to thinking graphically and have all used computers and video games, and all played with Legos.

"This is a great way to show them that engineering is fun."

The four-day camp for eighth-graders began Monday, with an introduction to the Lego Mindstorm Robotic kits. By the end of the day, students, who were assigned to work with partners, knew how to program a basic robot to do something, Farner said. Day two was about programming robotic sensors, causing the robot to sense and follow a white line on a dark surface, and to detect sound, touch and objects ahead.

By Wednesday, robot designs were being refined, and students had begun initial sumo matches to test their evolving robots against those of others. A full two-hour competition took place in Room 101 of the Marriott Health Building, at WSU, 3848 Harrison Blvd. Families and the public were welcome.

Joshua Nielsen, 15, a Ben Lomond High School student and a designated helper at the camp, designed a low robot surrounded by an attached, fence-like grid.

"Its name is 'The Best Robot,'" Joshua said.

"No, call it 'The Cheating Fortress,'" joked a young competitor.

"I wanted it close to the ground, so it wouldn't tip, it would just push other robots over the edge," Joshua continued. "We've built three or four robots, but I think this is our last. This class has been fun. I'm thinking about taking a robotics class in high school, but I'm not for sure."

Ethan D'Hulst, 13 and from Ogden Preparatory Academy, returned to settle a score.

"I came in third last year, and I want to win this year," said Ethan, who was working on an unnamed robot. "I always liked Legos, and I like computers and working with my hands. Last year's robot spun too fast. This year, we're slowing it down, so we can catch the other robots better."

Brenden Foutz, 14, of Mount Ogden Junior High, also was in NUBOTS last year. His sumo robot, named AWOL, featured miniature tires mounted on the front, as a bumper.

"I wanted to come again, to try out my new design," Brenden said. "We had a robotic arm last year, but it didn't really work. It didn't have enough power to lift another robot. This year, me and my current partner are not using a third motor, because it would take so long to build, but we are designing for defense and strength. But our programming isn't working yet. We are fixing the sensors."

Rachael Porter, 14, from Mound Fort Junior High, was Brenden's assigned partner.

"My sister did NUBOTS a few years ago, and it seemed really cool," she said. "I learned some about Mindstorm myself, but this week has been really interesting. I learned it's important to work as a team to get the whole thing going. Doing it by yourself would be overwhelming. I think this is a really good way to get people interested in math and science. People say girls don't like math and science, but this would be a good way to get them interested."

Originally written by Nancy Van Valkenburg of the Standard-Examiner