A Eureka Moment at Camp Quest Arizona 2022

Introducing STEM activities at a summer camp is particularly challenging. Especially when there is a wide variety of ages and interests. Particularly difficult is finding projects. The projects must appeal to the wide age range. Also, they must be “doable.” This year, we made “Joust Bots.” I started with a beam following robot and added a “rider” and lance. Development of the kits took some time. Fortunately, I had plenty of time over the past two years during the pandemic. I got a 3D printer, and it was used extensively in the development of the JoustBot.

It’s not enough that the machine works and it’s not enough that it is buildable, but it must be built safely. That is why this robot uses a breadboard instead of soldering the components to a circuit board. Using soldering irons open the possibility of burns. It is also easier to trouble shoot a mis wired bread board. There was only one “wire-to-wire” connection left in the design and I chose to use a “button splice” to accomplish that connection. The button splice only required a firm squeeze with a pair of pliers instead of soldering iron. It also made the build go faster.

More details leading up to the “Eureka Moment” …

Connections to the breadboard are made by pushing wires into the holes. The wire is a bit “wimpy” on its own. To make them stiff enough to easily be inserted, I tinned all the bare wires. This works well. The jumper wires are DuPont connectors that end in small metal pins specially designed to plug into breadboards. I packed a few extra. Unfortunately, if a tinned wire gets bent, it needs to be re-tinned. Anticipating that might be an issue, I packed a soldering iron that I could use to re-tin damaged wires. Unfortunately, I left the solder and flux on my workbench at home. With three hours into the four-hour project and only one day left, I was anticipating that many of the campers wouldn’t have working robots at the end of camp. That thought was depressing.

However, Eureka! An idea occurred to me in the middle of the night and woke me up early in the morning. I could make it work with the button splices and the spare DuPont connectors. I raced to the craft patio where the robots were stored. One by one I removed them from the box, found the broken leads, and spliced in the DuPont connectors. Then I tested each one for functionality. Every single unit worked…then I went to breakfast…

Since all the robots were in working order when the last hour of the project began, the campers were able to spend their time testing their skills and machines against other campers. Mission accomplished…whew!


About AZAtheist

Retired--Researcher, Developer, Program Manager, Arizona Regional Director--American Atheists, Organizer--Tucson Atheists, Organizer--Skeptics of Tucson
This entry was posted in Camp Quest, Freethought Community, Repurposing Material, Retired--A Day in the Life, Robotics, Science and Technology, Youth Activity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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