Robotics Challenge, summer camps inspire younger students to study STEM

April 26, 2023

Three children work with sensors, robotics
Students in grades 2-6 built and programmed robots out of LEGOs at the Robotics Design Challenge.

More than 150 elementary students from across Missouri built robots out of LEGOs and gained a better understanding of engineering during the Mizzou Robotics Design Challenge held in April.

The Robotics Design Challenge returned after a three-year hiatus, attracting participants from schools in Osage Beach, Kahoka, Lewistown, Boonville and St. Louis. Teams were challenged to build and program robots using LEGOs and a variety of sensors, and then participate in a Kahoot quiz on how robots were similar to humans.

The program gave the children an opportunity to test their abilities, work in teams and learn through fun and engaging activities, said PhD student David Fague of Fulton, who coordinated the event for the Neural Engineering Laboratory of Satish S. Nair, professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

David stressed that the challenge is not a competition but rather a way for students to connect math and science to real-world applications.

“The teams did very well on the challenge and had a good time,” he said. “Even those whose robots malfunctioned were able to explain what went wrong and what they could have done better given more time.”

The event also included a game-show style quiz session that challenged students to think about how robots mimic human movement and how the human brain is similar to a computer. Alumni and special guests also talked to the children about their Mizzou Engineering and industry experiences.

“Everything came together for the youth, and they seemed to genuinely enjoy the event,” Nair said.

Mizzou Engineering will host more camps for K-12 students this summer, including three robotics camps, virtual reality and game development camps and an environmental engineering program for girls.

“Camps are a great way to get younger students excited about STEM and thinking about career possibilities,” said Noah Manring, Dean of the College of Engineering. “We’re glad to hear that those who participated in our Robotics Design Challenge had a good time building and programming robots, and we look forward to providing similar opportunities to even more elementary, middle and high school students in the coming months.”

See a full schedule of Mizzou Engineering Summer Camps here.