STEM Spotlight: Robotics club conducts week-long summer camp for incoming frosh class


Michelle Liu

“STEM Spotlight” is an Aquila repeater showcasing STEM clubs and their initiatives.

by Edward Huang, Co-STEM Editor

Harker Robotics held their annual introductory summer camp from Aug. 8 to Aug. 12 in Nichols Hall, with club leadership teaching rising ninth graders about the basics of designing and building robots.

The summer camp gave the incoming freshmen the opportunity to learn from a variety of robotics subteams such as design, software, electrical, media and outreach. Freshmen spent each day following two subteams of their choice, attending morning and afternoon lectures led by Harker Robotics directors.

“The goal is for the freshmen to get trained with the machines and software before the year actually starts, because the robotics season itself is a lot more hectic,” Harker Robotics Executive President Emma Biswas (12) said. “Having freshmen come in before then allows them to get ahead and have a bigger impact within our team later on.”

According to Robotics Advisor Martin Baynes, the summer camp allowed newcomers with no prior experience to familiarize themselves with robotics without being overwhelmed. Additionally, newly elected officers were able to step into their roles by creating lesson plans for their respective subteams.

Harker Robotics officers fix a build issue with the robot during the freshman summer camp on August 10. The summer camp introduced rising freshmen to the basics of robotics to prepare them for the upcoming season. (Edward Huang)

“There’s an awful lot to learn which the freshmen may not have been exposed to previously: for example, running the machines, developing software and producing designs using [computer-aided design (CAD)],” Baynes said. “We’re not presuming any kind of robotics background.”

Operations President Ada Praun-Petrović (12) echoes the sentiment that club members designed their subteam curriculums to be as friendly as possible to freshmen who are new to robotics.

“There is definitely a lot to learn, and most people are still learning well into their sophomore and even junior year,” Ada said. “We’re not simplifying topics per se, but we introduce [freshmen] to the already simple ones.”

For example, the design subteam, led by juniors Ronald Cartee and Brindha Chandran, introduced freshmen to the basics of CAD, coaching them through the design process of several robotic subsystems without giving them the task of designing an entire robot in one week. Similarly, the software subteam taught freshmen how to code driver-controlled components of the robot rather than the more complex autonomous segments.

“I enjoyed the software [subteam] because I really like to code,” Ishan Mysore (9) said. “I really enjoyed learning about what made the robot successful, and it was also great to test the code that we wrote on the robot.”

After Club Fair takes place later this year, Harker Robotics will continue to hold weekly meetings dedicated to training freshmen for tournaments in the upcoming season.