Jim Zietz | Senior Photographer | Office of Communications & University Relations  

LSU Department of Computer Science Hosts Robotics Camp for High School Students

Robotics Lab opens its doors to INSPIRE, the Innovative Scholastic Program in Robotics Education

LSU recently played host to a full-on robot war as the LSU Department of Computer Science hosted INSPIRE, the Innovative Scholastic Program in Robotics Education camp.

INSPIRE gives middle and high school students hands-on experience in robotics, with an eye toward motivating students to pursue future careers within the sciences.

"The goal of the camp is to inspire students to pursue careers within the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields. This is all about inspiration and exposure," said Srivathsan Srinivasagopalan, LSU doctoral candidate and chief mentor for the INSPIRE camp. "We want to engage them through robot-building exercises, which are fun and educational at the same time. Such a healthy, hands-on learning activity can foster science and engineering talent, cooperation, creativity and project management skills in young minds."

The program, held in conjunction with the LSU AgCenter, provides youth in grades 6-12 with opportunities to build and program robots known as SumoBots. These educational robot kits from Parallax Inc. can be easily assembled and programmed to fight one-on-one in a style similar to that of the legendary Japanese Sumo wrestlers. The SumoBot exercises not only teach the students technical robotics skills, but also encourage and improve team work, imagination, critical thinking, logical reasoning skills and independent problem-solving.

"The program, which is run with assistance from Louisiana 4-H, hopes to build more future engineers in Louisiana, and give greater opportunities to women and minority students, especially those from rural Louisiana parishes," said Srinivasagopalan. Additional support was provided to the camp by LSU Chair of the Department of Computer Science S.S. Iyengar; computer science graduate students Sandeep Nimmagadda and Gopal Reddy Kondam; and Janet Fox and Katina Hester from the Department of 4-H Youth Development at the LSU AgCenter.

The camp, which was held June 24-25, concluded with a SumoBot face-off, where students pitted their robots against one another.

"By allowing the students to have fun while gaining these valuable scientific skills, we feel that the information retention level is higher," said Srinivasagopalan. "Also, if the students associate science and STEM skills with fun, there’s a better chance that they’ll pursue a related field down the road."

Ashley Berthelot | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations
July 2009