November 12, 2019
The College of Engineering sponsored a full-day robotics camp for underrepresented and economically-disadvantaged youth in central Missouri Oct. 31. Army Ants is made up of local high school students who design robots to complete specific tasks outlined by FIRST Robotics, an organization responsible for putting on regional and national robot competitions in order to build interest in STEM nationwide for students high-school age and younger. It is mentored by Biomedical, Biological and Chemical Engineering Interim Chair Kevin Gillis, Biological Sciences Professor Anand Chandrasekhar and engineer Andy Winslow.
Gillis says the COE-sponsored Army Ants high-school robotics team developed a strategic plan several years ago to increase representation of underrepresented groups on the team and in STEM careers.
“This annual camp is part of that plan where we partner with the GradeAPlus enrichment program to target disadvantaged kids and get them excited about technology and motivated to join the Army Ants when they get to high school,” Gillis says. “Each camper is given a programmable robot that they put together and, with help from the Army Ants, learn to program it using the easy-to-learn Scratch language. Then the kids take the robot home to continue their learning and are invited back to future camps with the Army Ants.”
The Army Ants led a group of 22 aspiring engineers in building and programming robots that the campers got to take home with them. The camp was held at the Second Baptist Church in downtown Columbia.
Members of the Army Ants also volunteered at the regional FIRST LEGO League robotics tournament for grades 4-8 at Jefferson Middle School in Columbia Oct. 31. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering student Morgan Kruse, an Army Ants alumnus, organized the volunteers