Today we hosted one of our largest outreach events of the season, the BP bring your child to work day. BP has been a long time supporter of FIRST in Alaska, as well as a sponsor of our team. To thank them, we hosted our second annual bring your child to work day. It’s the first day of summer vacation, so almost all of the kids were free. Their parents took them into their office, and we arranged activities for them all day.
The event began at 8:00 am, which kids began arriving. Vicki and a few of the BP staff worked diligently to greet the kids and finish setting up, while we prepared for our activities. Depending on their age, kids were split up into three groups. The younger elementary school kids were making lego robots to drive around. The older elementary school kids had a challenge to maneuver a lego robot through a maze. Finally, the kids going to / in middle school made Tetrix robots to go through a maze.
Presentations began around 8:30, with around 50 kids, plus most of their parents. We introduced them to ourselves, FIRST, and engineering. We had a group discussion of what a robot is, and how they’re used, and then split into groups to begin working.
Each group was introduced to varying levels of complexity of the engineering process, and we guided them to following it to build their robot. They began by reviewing the challenge, brainstorming ideas, and eventually working together to assemble their creations. Many had participated in the event last year, and were eager to begin building from the lessons they learned. While these activities were going on, we began calling groups out to try driving tankbot. The sound of motors screeching in the hallways got everyone excited to try it out, and the kids had a ton of fun driving.
Lunch began at noon, during which time parents were invited back to spend lunch with their kids, and see their progress so far. No one had a driving robot yet, however they had a concept sketch ready to show, and a chassis in progress. We enjoyed pizza and chips while discussing how they would get through the challenge. After lunch, the parents left, and we took a group photo together.
Robot building continued into the afternoon, with many teams finishing their building and beginning to install the electronics. Lawton, Josh and Alexa also prepared “robot soccer”, which they went into the hallway and, using fuel (plastic ball) from the 2017 FRC challenge, played soccer with their FTC bots from this season. It was a close match, with Alexa’s robot having much faster driving and strafing abilities, while Lawton’s bot had a section in the middle which could hold the ball while maneuvering. The kids could barely contain themselves, with us having to quiet them so we didn’t disturb people working. After the matches, the robot building continued.
At 3, the robot building finished, and parents came in again. They got to see their child’s creation, and then each team got a chance to showcase their robot, and demo it in the obstacle course. All the group assembled again, and we got to hear what kids had learned, and what robot they want to see. I felt really inspired hearing at the beginning kids wanting robots that can create food from nothing, print money, and destroy their brother’s room. By the end, however, the kids were much more engaged and had a far more concrete understanding of the applications robots could have. They wanted AI to help in the office, flying robots to deliver packages, and a robot to clean their house. To me, this shows just how much can be understood of technology in a few hours.