Hot bots: Robots take center stage at Hereford High camp


Outside Hereford High School on a recent July morning, the summer temperatures have turned steamy. But inside the school's air-conditioned library, 28 students are enjoying one of the hottest trends in technology education.

Putting the finishing touches on several self-built, remote-controlled vehicles, students are immersed in this year's HZR Summer Robotics Camp. And while robotics may be a hot academic discipline these days, what these students are doing is definitely cool.

"We're getting them ready for competition," says Christopher Putnam, who along with Michael Doddo runs the annual robotics camp for students in Grades 5-11. "These guys are really talented."

Across the room, students – boys, mostly – peer into tangles of wires and sensors. Their robots, awkward-looking vehicles of perforated metal sheeting, flywheels and tires, have been constructed over a few days and will compete in a tournament on the final day of the weeklong camp.

Their robots must be able to score points by navigating a series of tests and challenges, from picking up and throwing or placing balls into cylinders to being able to pass underneath a low-clearance bridge or crawl over an obstacle in its path.
To do that, students learn not only how to design and build the bots but how to program their sensor-driven creations as well. Many of the campers are members of their home school robotics clubs and will go on to compete in tournaments during the school year.

The Hereford camp, sponsored by the Hereford Zone Robotics club of both Hereford high and middle schools, is one of two robotics clubs in the area this summer – Ridgely Middle School will host its robotics camp from August 12-16, 2013.

Story and photos by Charles Herndon, Communications Specialist, Department of Communications and Community Outreach
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