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July 24

First day of robotics was as much challenging as it was fun. The plan was to let the girls build their robots from Legos, for which they would use to complete challenges for the rest of the week. Except one problem: the girls had finished building their robots within the first two hours. By now, it is no surprise that these girls are intelligent but their progress had exceeded beyond our expectations. My partner and I had to come up with something quickly—we let them practice controlling their robots with a joystick, and had them try to move their robots in certain shapes, such as a circle, triangle, square, and a figure-eight. The last proved to be the most difficult, which the girls had fun trying to figure out how to make a continuous infinity loop.

This week, we had one assigned group for four days, which allowed me to grow close to the eighth-graders. While they built their robots, walking around and striking a conversation with these girls were always so eye-opening. I still cannot grasp how fast they were able to construct their robot—it was an amazing sight to see.

July 25

After yesterday, my partner and I came up with a plan so that the girls can be preoccupied with a number of projects, in the case that they were able to complete everything again. Since Thursday was robot Olympics, we decided to let the girls design, imagine, plan, and create their own robot mazes for the whole class to compete. Girls’ Inc. girls are so creative—they enjoy working and building from scratch, which is an important characteristic of being an engineer. A group built a beach-themed maze for their robot, another galaxy-themed. It was so impressive to watch what the girls come up with, and they began to draw and construct their mazes in the second half of class. The girls were the most active during this portion of robotics, indicating that they prefer more hands-on activities, which my partner and I took into consideration. During the second portion of class, we began teaching them how to code their robots. We devised many small and short challenges they could practice with their robots to understand and feel comfortable managing the machine without the joystick. It was interesting to watch the girls’ faces when they discovered that coding was actually easier than manual control.

July 26

The girls have moved along in robotics so fast, we decided to amp up the challenges and allowed them to figure out for themselves how to build, attach, and utilize different types of sensors on their robots. We discussed the most common ones that we interact with—automatic doors, thermostats, etc. The girls learned a lot from the discussion as they realized that many of our everyday encounters require sensors, such as light switches that turn off when you clap and elevator doors that stay open when people enter the elevator. Again, the girls had impressive speed in building and we let them code the sensors on their own. Many things in life are not told, but experimented by yourself to figure out how to accomplish something. The girls took it with stride and achieved great success with the robots—one of the groups could code the robot how to move based on a certain color! It was incredible!

July 27

The girls kept continuously asking if they could finish their mazes yesterday, and it was Robot Olympic day today. We had planned for them to add on their finishing touches during the first portion of the lesson, and test the challenges out in the second half. However, plans were thrown out the window when we arrived to staff central and found none of their mazes with our boxes except one. Where did the rest of them go? We turned the room upside down trying to find them, but they were nowhere to be found. As we walked out, however, I found the girls’ mazes in the trash can, covered with apple cores and cheese. We tried to fish them out, but it would have been too disgusting to work with so we let it go. Breaking the news to the girls was very difficult, but they took it very well. These girls have been so patient and always hardworking, they listen to our instructions and run with their ideas on how and what to create. This time again they rose up to the challenge. Robot Olympics could not be a tournament without its competitions, so we allowed the girls to formulate their own short challenges and they invented very impressive obstacle courses. A group had made a bridge for the robot to cross, another had created a race in which a robot traveled down a curvy path that ended with three cups. The contestant would have to guess which cup had an object underneath; if you got it right, you could proceed and park in one lane, the opponent in the other, and the two robots would race to the finish line. We also made a challenge for the girls to try, and they enjoyed it very much—we incorporated loops, had them reverse direction, and park a robot. Despite the rough, unexpected morning, the girls were able to create and finish their challenges in a shorter amount of time but had a lot of fun completing each other’s robot Olympic event. Everyone participated and the competition bolstered their energy, as each team wanted to win. Overall, I think robotics went well—though the girls seemed disinterested in the beginning, they seemed to have a good time with them at the end.

July 28

After learning about the machinery that powers essentially most of our needs, it was time to see it in action—at Disneyland! Despite the hot weather, I think the girls had the time of their lives there. I hadn’t seen the middle-schoolers all day because they went on a leadership Disney tour for a few hours. However, I managed to catch a few glimpses of them after it was over and they were ready to go on rides, immediately sprinting off out of sight after checking in. We had planned to go on The Grizzly together, but they were nowhere to be found later on. Hopefully, they had a fun time at the happiest place on earth!

The high-schoolers at California Adventure went on plenty of rides, and Siera and I were able to ride on one with them. It was an opportunity to get to know them better after helping support facilitating them these past two weeks. I hadn’t been able to get to know them outside of the classroom, but I enjoyed our conversations while waiting in line for California Screamin’. We talked about horoscopes, roller coasters, family, and so many things—the lines for the most popular rides are always so long and gave us plenty of time to talk. I am glad we had the time to bond with a few of the older girls before camp is over. I am sad to say that next week is our last week of Eureka but I look forward to what the girls can achieve in our CSI week because it is going to be spectacular!