Campers Have Fun Building, Programming Robots at OCtech

Photo from Robotics Summer Camp 2016Nearly two dozen rising fifth- through 11th-graders gathered to build and program robots during the VEX Robotics Summer Camp at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.

“I like programming,” camper Marcus Elmore said. “I’ve made a few games, and I make and sell maps that people can use for their games.”

Elmore has attended a robotics camp before, but that was different because the robots were already assembled and the campers just programmed them. This time, he and fellow campers were given boxes of parts, split into teams, and required to assemble and program their creations.

Elmore is looking forward to the camp again next year – he’s even invited a friend. “I want to be a robotics engineer,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot.”

Stephanie Phillips, Project Lead the Way program coordinator and instructor at OCtech, said the campers have done a great job grasping robotics. The camp was held July 11-15 in the school’s Mechatronics lab.

“All of these kids just jumped right in and started building,” she said. “It really surprised me how easily they picked up on all of this.”

Photo from Robotics Summer Camp 2016This was Walker Whalen’s first time ever building a robot, but robotics is probably something he will encounter and use when he fulfills his dream of becoming a marine biologist.

“This is very fun and challenging,” he said. “But mostly fun.”

Ryann Johnson wants to be an engineer when she grows up.

“We built this robot, and now we’re playing games with the robots and programming them, and adding more detail,” she said. “We played a can challenge. The robot has to pick up cans and put them in a box. Then we played a game called Nothing But Net. The robot has to throw a ball into a net. It’s been fun.”

Linda Payne, special projects and grant developer at OCtech, said she, too, was amazed at how quickly the campers learned the fundamentals of robotics.

“They’re all engaged,” she said. “It’s been so interesting to see, because when you talk about robotics, there are a lot of elements involved. There’s the building, the engineering and the programming of the robots. I’ve heard some of the kids say, ‘I really like the programming part’ or ‘I really like the building part,’ and they’re sort of picking up what they like to do best and working together to accomplish their team’s tasks. It’s great to watch.”

Camper Andre Linton has attended several other robotics camps in the region. His goal is to one day move to Japan and work for a robotics company.

“It was really surprising to see all of the younger kids here,” he said. “They showed that they could keep up with the older ones.”

The VEX Robotics Summer Camp was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation. A second camp was held July 18-22.

To watch a video of the campers in action, visit