A new summer camp at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock introduced more than 30 Arkansas students to the exciting world of robotics competitions.
The camp, held July 31 to Aug. 4, taught students how to build and program robots as well as how to compete in VEX IQ robotics competitions.
VEX IQ is a snap-together robotics system designed from the ground up to provide educational opportunities to future engineers of all skill levels. The VEX IQ program, which is for elementary school students, is the predecessor for robotics competitions at the middle school/high school (VEX EDR) and university (VEX U) levels.
Leiterman hopes that by introducing students to robotics before junior high school, she will encourage them to pursue STEM-related careers. She also hopes the summer camp will lead to more schools starting robotics teams.
“We thought it would be a great way to introduce robotics to elementary students who don’t have robotics teams at their schools, and it promotes an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education,” Leiterman said. “We hope these students will go back to their teachers and ask them to start robotics teams in their schools.”
Neva Dagtas of Little Rock was excited to attend the camp to learn engineering and robotics skills.
“I like building robots, and I love the way you can control the robots and make it do things autonomously,” Dagtas said.
Dagtas and her team partner, Natalie Tyler, a sixth-grader from Maumelle, said it took a lot of ingenuity and online research to get their robot, which they named Walle Jr., to work.
“We were missing so many parts,” Tyler said. “The chips were different. When we tried to make the controller work, it didn’t.”
Their efforts paid off, as Dagtas and Tyler won the camp’s robotics competition for fifth- and sixth-graders.
“After all the struggles you’ve been through, it’s a really happy moment in your life,” Dagtas said.
Clare Quaid, a Mills High School senior who is a member of an all-girls robotics team coached by Leiterman, was one of 10 high school and UA Little Rock college students who volunteered to introduce the students to the world of robotics.
“Being on a robotics team is very empowering,” said Quaid, who added that she is a distant cousin of actor Dennis Quaid. “At first, I didn’t want to go into a STEM field, but now I see how much girls are needed in STEM fields. Robotics empowered me to make a change.”
Zamari Ball of North Little Rock, fourth-grader at North Little Rock Catholic
Granger Colclasure of Little Rock, third-grader at Episcopal Collegiate
Mia Colclasure of Little Rock, fifth-grader at Episcopal Collegiate
Leonardo Cruz of Little Rock, fourth-grader at Forest Park Elementary
Tristen Cunningham of Little Rock, fifth-grader at Episcopal Collegiate
Neva Dagtas of Little Rock, sixth-grader at Huda Academy
Kaan Dagtas of Little Rock, fourth-grader at Huda Academy
Eric Carmona Garcia of Little Rock, third-grader at Baseline Academy
Tyler Goodman of Jacksonville, sixth-grader at Bayou Meto Elementary
Naia Green of Little Rock, fifth-grader at Christ Lutheran School
DeAndre James of Little Rock, sixth-grader at Meadowcliff Elementary
Amelia Johnson of Bryant, fifth-grader at Springhill Elementary
Kenyon Key of North Little Rock, fourth-grader at Abundant Life School
Connor Lloyd of Little Rock, sixth-grader at Lisa Academy
Christian Mack of Lake Hamilton, fifth-grader at Lake Hamilton Elementary
Fernanda Martinez of North Little Rock, fifth-grader at Lisa Academy North
Vania Martinez of North Little Rock, third-grader at Lisa Academy North
Chloe Mitchell of North Little Rock, third-grader at Arkansas School for the Blind
Mason Mitchell of North Little Rock, sixth-grader at Lakewood Elementary
Alex Moore of Mabelvale, fifth-grader at Davis Elementary
Rafeal Morgan of Little Rock, fourth-grader at Forest Heights STEM Academy
Nam Nguyen of Little Rock, fourth-grader at Forest Park Elementary
Roger Quad of Bigelow, sixth-grader at Anne Watson
Ryker Quaid of Bigelow, fourth-grader at Anne Watson
Nikhil Shanmugam of Little Rock, third-grader at Williams Magnet
Dishant Sharma of Little Rock, sixth-grader at Baker Elementary
Shriish Sathish of Little Rock, third-grader at Chenal Elementary
Davontae Taylor of Lake Hamilton, fourth-grader at Lake Hamilton Elementary
Natalie Tyler of Maumelle, sixth-grader at Pine Forest Elementary
Matthew Wiebelhaus-Brahm of Benton, fourth-grader at Springhill Elementary
Samuel Wiebelhaus-Brahm of Benton, third-grader at Springhill
Bradyn Wilkerson of Bigelow, East End Elementary
Sheriff Wolfe of Little Rock, third-grader at Pulaski Heights Elementary
In the upper right photo, Neva Dagtas (middle) of Little Rock celebrates as her robot, “Walle Jr.,” wins the robotics camp competition for fifth and sixth graders. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III/UA Little Rock Communications.