High schoolers earn college credit at NPCC STEM camp

Ruel Malcolm tinkers, as he called it, to find the best way to make a robot that can pick up objects. Malcolm, 15, is attending North Platte Community College’s three-day STEM Robotics Camp.

High school students tinkered with robotic kits and earned a college credit at the STEM Robotics Camp at North Platte Community College.

The three-day, 15-hour camp started Tuesday morning and ends Thursday afternoon. The entry fee for each camper was $100, which included the robotic kit.

Jared Daily, engineering and physics instructor at the college, was in charge of the camp. Daily said the robot kit is versatile, as it comes with 12 programs, but the board is customizable to program other actions.

“Originally I was going to have a more structured camp, but we had a lot less students,” Daily said. “With the smaller group, I can be more free-form and let them go. That allows them to pursue their own interest, which always spawns more creativity.”

One of the students, Ruel Malcolm, 15, enjoyed the freedom.

“I have enjoyed being able to do what I want. Most of the time you come here and they give you a very strict thing to do,” Malcolm said. “I like coming in and being able to build and work what I want to work on.”

Students started off creating robots that were suggested in the kit. As the camp goes on, they have started to come up with their own creative ideas, Daily said.

Malcolm was busy working on a more advanced robot Wednesday morning. He was trying to construct a robot that can pick items up and bring them to a person.

“I think this would be really helpful in the older communities,” Malcolm said. “Where people have a hard time getting up, they can have a robot pick things up and bring it to them.”

Malcolm said having the right brackets and connectors to fit together is a challenge that requires trial and error.

“I’m excited to see it work. There isn’t a better feeling than putting together a vehicle and seeing it work,” Malcolm said.

“I’m a tinkerer,” he said. He likes to build foam planes, he said, so being able to work with other materials is very interesting.

Malcolm said his plans are to graduate from high school and then go to college to become a mechanical engineer.

Daily said, “Hands-on experience is always valuable and important. I think what is unique about the camp is it isn’t all about book learning — it is about letting loose, relaxing and enjoying learning.”

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