Robo Camp participants win awards at UAB's Alice Film Festival

Published: May 27, 2009 3:34:00 PM
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At the recent Alice Film Festival held at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), students from Auburn University's Robo Camp received three of the six awards given at the elementary and middle school levels. Asher Anderson and Caleb Sowers from Cary Woods Elementary School won the second and third place awards, respectively, at the elementary school level. Auburn Junior High School's Robby Hall received the second place award at the middle school level. Robo Camp is led by Auburn University's Daniela Marghitu, faculty member in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering.

Robo Camp was created by Marghitu in 2007. Each spring semester, students in grades K-12 are invited to join the camp to increase their computer literacy, build a platform for problem- or project-based learning and integrate knowledge from many disciplines including mathematics, science, social studies, English and art. The camp instructors introduce students to advanced computer concepts and help them with hands-on applications of computer programming and robotics. This year, the camp was taught by four engineering graduate students —Michael Fuller, Ben Brahim, Eliza Banu and Santosh Kulkarni. Robo Camp is sponsored by Prentice Hall and Microsoft.

"The camp has been very successful," said Marghitu. "We will continue to offer it and will now be offering an advanced camp in the fall semesters."

While at the camp, students have the opportunity to learn about many different computer programs, such as the Alice Programming System, the Lego Mindstorms and Robotics Invention System and the CRS-A255 robot. They have access to MyITLab, where they are able to reinforce knowledge of computer hardware and software architecture. Students also have the option to learn game development through using Zune and ZNA Framework. Textbooks, headphones and flash drives are provided for students to use while they work in the labs during the camp.

Each year, the students are encouraged to enter the Alice Film Festival at UAB to showcase the products they create while in the camp. The festival gives K-12 students the opportunity to create animated movies or video games using Alice and submit them in a judged competition. All movie and video game entries are shown at the festival. Awards are given in three categories—elementary, middle and high school—and awarded to contestants with the top four scores. The festival provides more than $1,000 in prizes, including gift certificates for $25 to $75, award plaques and Alice textbooks.

Alice was created by Carnegie Mellon University to offer technical exposure to students by providing intuitive environments for teaching object-oriented programming. It is an interactive 3-D-programming environment that helps to motivate both male and female students to become interested in learning to use computers. Alice can be downloaded for free at

Contributed by Cassity Hughes