Last week the Randolph County 4-H Fairgrounds hosted a dream event for young, inquisitive STEM students: a week-long Robotics Camp!
For five days, June 10 through 14 from 1-4 pm, elementary age attendees had the chance to learn from the director of the program, Ryan Hunter, about the ins and outs of the Lego Mindstorm EV3 bot model. Hunter, an expert in all things software, has spent more than a decade in the field. A graduate of the University of Kentucky, he has put his studies in Computer Science to use in multiple capacities.
Hunter began writing software for large scale organizations such as his alma mater, Ball State University, Lexmark, and the Department of Defense. In 2007, he founded his own custom software company in Lexington called Apax Software. While in Kentucky, he became involved in multiple groups that provided coding classes in local schools. This experience helped him find his true passion, teaching children coding concepts and watching them grow their problem solving abilities. Mr. Hunter currently fulfills this mission through a Muncie company he co-founded with Brandon Coppernoll, TechWise Academy.
TechWise Academy supplies Delaware County schools with coding and general technology courses as well as offering innovative workshops in surrounding areas. In addition to the business side of the organization, TechWise is known throughout the community for its commitment to volunteer work. As of the latest update, employees have spent over 100 hours of donated time in Muncie Community School and local non-for-profits teaching coding. They believe these efforts are worthwhile because of the many benefits coding might provide for students.
Participants in their workshops and full courses not only learn coding basics, but also reap the rewards of the skills this process requires. These include logical thinking, creativity in problem solving, confident decision making, and a better understanding of the technology and its role in the world. Most recently, Hunter and his organization accomplished this through the Robotics Camp held in Husted Hall.
Several local kids came to the fairgrounds every day to work in small groups on their bots. The first portion of the camp consisted of assembling their assigned EV3 models, allowing kids to follow instructions and leader direction to accomplish the desired final product. The second portion involved actually programming their robots to do specified tasks with the assistance of leaders circulating around the hall. The third and final portion was fixing any issues they came across during the previous processes. This part seemed to be the favorite section of both the participants and director Ryan Hunter as they really got to think for themselves and be legitimately challenged. Hunter revealed that he enjoyed this portion because “each one (kid) goes at things from a different perspective. I like to see them attempt multiple ways to solve a problem, because there is no particular ‘right answer.’” The Randolph County Purdue Extension office is looking forward to several more events for kids this summer.