Robots and Video Games are Built at Auburn's Robotics Camp

Published: Jun 22, 2010 10:00:00 AM
Media Contact: Sally Credille, src0007@auburn.edu, 334-844-3447

Source: Auburn Plainsman

This summer, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in Shelby Center, students ages 10 through 18 make robotic tanks out of Lego pieces, program their own versions of Pacman and create computer software that calculates mathematical equations, among other things.

The Robotics and Game Development Summer Camp was developed in 2007 by Auburn's computer science and software engineering (CSSE) department.

As part of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering outreach program, the camp serves to educate young students through hands-on experience and to encourage interest in the engineering field.

"We don't want to push anybody toward something they don't like, but we just want to show people the real face of (computer science and software engineering)," said Daniela Marghitu, the camp's creator and CSSE faculty member. "To be a computer guy doesn't mean to have pimples, to be ugly, to be a nerd and wear glasses."

Based on their understanding of the subject, students are placed in groups that specialize in different types of computer science. They have the opportunity to construct robots, make animated films using Alice software, learn computer programming or program video games.

"It's always interesting to see what they make," said John Weaver, beginning robots instructor and CSSE graduate student.

Weaver's students use Lego pieces to create unique robots and can program them wirelessly using Bluetooth technology.

"You can create anything you want to," said Grady Hall, 10, of Richland Elementary School. Hall created a robot that can find and attack other robots, using a sensor that reads colored paper.

Josh McLeod, 11, of J. F. Drake Middle School, created a program that calculates mathematical equations with the help of his instructor Santosh Kulkarni, CSSE graduate student.

Kulkarni teaches students "C++", a general purpose computer programming language.

"The ultimate goal is to have them compete in a programming contest that's held at UAB," Kulkarni said. "(The students) are all locked up in a room for three hours, and they give them problems to solve."

Another group of students uses "Alice" to create animated films. "Alice" is educational software that teaches students computer programming in a 3D environment.

Some "Robo Camp" students competed in a digital film festival held at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They created animated films using "Alice" and submitted them to the competition.

The students took home seven awards in the elementary, middle and high school categories.

Guarav Bhatnagar, a CSSE graduate student, teaches video game programming to a group of three students.

Win Sinor, Auburn High School student, created a basic video game similar to Pacman, and said it takes him about 30 minutes to create a game.

Taha Ben Brahim, a PhD student in CSSE, teaches an advanced robot group.

"The kids will have to rely on their own imagination to build whatever they want and program it," Brahim said.

The students at Auburn University's Robo Camp entertain themselves by doing difficult work that most college students would complain about.

"We realized that as long as kids have fun, they don't even realize how hard they are working," Marghitu said.

The Robo Camp's official YouTube channel, youtube.com/MyLEAT, displays the students' work.

To read the article from the Auburn Plainsman, visit this link.