2011 Sumo Robot Summer Camp June 20-July1

The June 20 - July 1, 2011, 2nd annual UNI MiniSumo Robotics Camp, hosted by the UNI Physics Department on the UNI campus, was directed by Dr. Dale Olson.  Cost was $300 for the day camp, versus a little less than $900 for the residential campers ($300 for camp plus $600 for room and board).

Students constructed mini-Sumo robots, and learned basic wiring, programming, and how to use a variety of sensors.  The two-week camp allowed each student to construct and personalize his own robot, and students have taken their robots home.  As a service, and to promote learning by the high school campers, the camp was visited by three groups of middle school students.  On Monday, June 27, a group of twenty middle school students from the Cedar Rapids area visited, saw the sumos in action, and peppered the high school campers with stimulating questions.  This session was led, primarily, by camp director Dale Olson.  However, on Thursday, June 30, two groups of middle school students visited, one group arriving at 10:00 am, and a second at 11:00 am.  These were two groups of about fifteen students each, all from nearby (Black Hawk Count, IA).  This time the high school campers were made responsible for the teaching, and, likely, learned a great deal themselves.  Thanks to Celeste Bembry for organizing these visits. Photos of the campers presenting to the Thursday morning middle school visitors can be accessed on the 2011 Summer Camp drop-down menu at the left.

On Wednesday morning, June 29, 2011, campers took a field trip to Iowa Laser Technology.  They saw very large industrial laser systems (carbon dioxide and neodymium yag lasers) supplemented by automated materials handling systems.  Lots of sparks flew in several senses.  We appreciated the stimulating introduction to Iowa Laser provided by tour guide Matt Miller.

During the afternoon of Wednesday, June 29, campers visited two research groups.  The first was the low-temperature magnetism lab of Dr. Paul Shand, where they were hosted by Physics majors Zach Griffith and Stroh Leslie.  The second was the Computer Simulation of Physical Processes group led by Dr. Mike Roth.  Student Charlie Hubbard and Dr. Roth hosted this visit.  Photos of these visits are available.  (Again, please see the drop-down menu at the left.)

Then, at 3:00 pm on Thursday afternoon, seven UNI Physics majors visited the robotics lab, and saw a presentation on mini-sumo robotics by the campers. Campers demonstrated how to use 'sensor code tools' to quickly and easily test each of the five main sensors on their robots, and how to use an oscilloscope to present the pulses of controlled width, which, in turn, permit control of speed and direction for the motors that power the robot.  Campers and visitors (using provided robots) then participated in a mini-sumo competition, which was won by camper Josh Herz.

The two residential campers, taking advantage of the full residential option, available this year for the first time, seemed to enjoy that part of their robotics camp experience. The residential option included rooms for each week-day night but also the weekend of June 25-26, and all meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  An experienced residential assistant, Mr. Charlie Hubbard, a senior double-major in Chemistry and Physics at the University of Northern Iowa, resided with the campers in the Dancer Hall each evening and also over the weekend.  Charlie worked with the residential campers to organize interesting activities, including over the weekend, a movie, a trip to the water park, and a trip to the Sturgis Falls celebration that occurs during the last weekend of June each summer.  The full residential option makes the camp accessible to students traveling from such a large distance that they cannot go home over the weekend.

The link below leads to a downloadable pdf form containing:  1.  The Camp Registration Form, 2.  A Camp Schedule (based on summer 2010), and 3.  The Residential Option Registration Form.

For information about other science and math camps offered by the University of Northern Iowa, go to

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