Student News

CSGC Summer Grant: Teaching Robotics to African American Youth (Girl’s Session)

Nikhil Barnes – August 5, 2019

This summer Nasir Barnes and I worked together to teach African American boys and girls in our area the joys of robotics. We’re working in conjunction with Camp Atwater, a historically black outdoor summer camp. A camp that we both once attended. The boys and girl’s sessions are separate. This is a post about the girl’s session which is scheduled directly after the conclusion of the boy’s session. While Nasir did the fieldwork and teaching I worked from Deerfield to make sure he had all the materials he needed to teach the kids.

The camp has a group of thirty or more girls that attend each year, this year saw higher numbers than that, numbers that came closer to matching the boy’s session than in years past. The group of girls who signed up for robotics was smaller than that of the boys, but not by much. Ten girls enrolled in the robotics class and of that number, most were incredibly focused on learning and maintaining the STEM skills being imparted.

The same as the Boys session the first week was entirely focused on teaching fundamental skills and making learning those skills as fun as possible, the group built robots akin to racecars and become increasingly agitated about the fate of their cars once they were gone, for they had seen Nasir take apart a robot from the boys session fashioned after a puppy. They proceeded to call Nasir “Puppy Killer” for the rest of the two-week program. Once again the first week ended with a race.

In the next week, they strove to perfect the basics they had learned and stretch their understanding of what made their machinations move at their will. Simultaneously Nasir grew as a teacher, having a greater understanding of how to interact with students, and a smaller group to truly improve his skills at relaying essential knowledge. Nasir and the girls grew together and when Nasir returned home, he had more stories from that group than he had from the previous boy’s session, it seemed the bond between student and mentor was both deeper and stronger.

We would like to thank Camp Atwater, Mr. Earle Mendillo, and the Deerfield CSGC for helping to create this program and give back to our community. This project was a great success and we look forward to the potential continuation of this undertaking.