UNT Robocamp for Girls nominated for industry award

Tech Titans
The Metroplex Technology Business Council's Tech Titans award is dedicated to the promotion of the high tech industry in the Dallas/Fort Worth region.
Student program robots to compete in a sumo wrestling-style tournament.
Monday, August 16, 2010

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- The College of Engineering's Summer Robocamp for Girls at the University of North Texas has been chosen as a finalist for the Tech Titan of the Future-University Level award, which recognizes higher education institutions that encourage students to choose engineering and technology-related disciplines.

Now in its sixth year, the Robocamp for Girls is a free, weeklong day camp for high school aged-girls hosted at UNT's Discovery Park campus each summer. The camp features numerous hands-on activities and experiments in robotics, engineering design, critical thinking and computer programming.

The winner of the Tech Titan award will be announced at the 10th Annual Tech Titans Awards Gala on Aug. 27 (Friday) at the Renaissance Hotel Dallas in Richardson. Other finalists are the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education at Southern Methodist University, and the George A. Jeffrey NanoExplorers program and the Innovation Opportunity Camp, both at the University of Texas at Dallas. The Tech Titans Awards are presented by the Metroplex Technology Business Council, the largest technology trade non-profit organization in Texas.

David Keathly, co-director of the robocamps, senior lecturer and undergraduate advisor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, said the camps provide traditionally underrepresented groups, especially high school aged-girls, a place to develop an interest in science, engineering and technology that will stay with them long after their participation in the camp.

"We hope they will enjoy the camp activities and that it will renew their interest and increase their participation and efforts in science, math and related courses in secondary school, as well as lead to continued interest in college and beyond," Keathly said.

The College of Engineering first initiated the Robocamp for Girls program in the summer of 2005 with only two camps and has since expanded the camps to include Robocamp for Boys, co-ed Xbox Game Development Camps, and a Robocamp Jumpstart program for girls entering 7th and 8th grade. This summer there were 10 camps with a total enrollment of approximately 200 students.

The Robocamps feature activities in which students learn to assemble and program small, rolling robots to perform various tasks. In one activity that camp directors call RoboArt, students attach colored markers to the robots and program them to draw on paper.

Campers also program robots called SumoBots to compete in a sumo wrestling-style tournament in which each robot is programmed to push the other out of the ring.

Students also learn to use 3D simulation software called Alice to create an animated movie or game. At the end of the week, certificates and prizes are awarded to the best designs in various competitions, and the students can present completed projects to their parents.

"We try to vary the activities so that they are always motivated and feel challenged and engaged by not dwelling on one activity for too long," said Dr. Robert Akl, co-director of the robocamps and associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

"We make sure that the camps that we do are in alignment with the goals of the department by increasing the recruitment efforts, providing visibility and helping provide engineering awareness to high school students. So hopefully when it is time to choose a college and a major, they choose UNT and an engineering field."

The Robocamps and jumpstart camps are funded by Texas Workforce Commission Youth in Technology Program and the Motorola Foundation, respectively.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108