70 students, 5 days, KB Renewable Robotics Summer Camp

70 students, 5 days, KB Renewable Robotics Summer Camp

Contributed by Jourdan Dunkley, a proud participant in the Kimroy Bailey Summer Robotics Camp.

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Jourdan (author) 2nd from right assisting with the assembly of a residential wind turbine during the Kimroy Bailey Robotics Summer Camp.

Whether your passion lies in Robotics, Auto mechanics, Electronics, Computer Science or Electrical Engineering, we all share a common goal: to advance society with our technology. In a perpetually, rapidly expanding technological world, those who fail to adapt will be frozen in time and fall to the wayside. Jamaica is far from where it can be in this evolutionary process, the potential of our youth is as an atomic bomb waiting to explode. It is crucial, then, that we inspire our young minds: being exposed to the exciting world of science and technology- get our hands dirty. My heart lies in Robotics Engineering. Kimroy Bailey’s Renewable Robotics Camp provided an excellent platform to kickstart my journey towards a career in this field. Under the guidance of KB himself and a vibrant (slightly eccentric) crew of sociable, knowledgeable counsellors, attendees were given a comprehensive introduction to Robotics, Electronics and Renewable Energy.

My experience at the camp was an exhilarating week filled with learning and socializing. On Monday, July 7, 2014 at the very outset of our journey, the camp instantly captured my attention. After an introduction to my fellow campmates and the team behind it all, Kimroy Bailey, along with Dr. Dave Muir and camp instructors: Raymond, Marlon, Christian and Shadae it is fitting to proclaim that the world of Robotics was thrust upon us. After an airing of a youtube video in which interesting bots were put on display and criticized by the students, we got straight into the meat of matter: That’s right, we straight away began to build our first robot, parts supplied by the handy Arduino kit, a beginner-friendly, ready-made package. By the end of the day, a basic 2-servo bot which could fit in the palm of your hand was the fruit of our labour. It lacked functionalities and was rather useless. However, we marvelled at the product, but the fact that we made that together as a unit brought us closer-to each other, and to the machine. We came to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Tuesday was the day that life was breathed into our bag-of-bolts concoctions. We were introduced to an accessible programming language, so simple a monkey could use (provided that monkey had basic computer skills). With this tool, we made our robot do the most basic, mundane of things- drive forward, reverse, turn, etc. It was an invigorating experience; our lifeless bags-of-bolts were now mobile bags-of-bolts. However, they still had no means of interacting with the world around them.

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Kimroy Bailey Robotics Summer Camp participants and an array of their robotics and renewable energy projects

On Wednesday, we delved deeper into electronics and were exposed to the eyes and ears of our bots-sensors. This is where it really gets fun: our bots could now detect a wall, stop, turn and navigate just by the addition of a single component. Wow! Our minds now brimming with creative ideas were put to the test. We were given the task of making any modification to our bot. The team with the most creative bot was to win a prize. In a competitive spirit, we pushed our now-acquired knowledge of motors, sensors, electronics and programming to the limit and created a plethora of functionalities and behaviours. The intimacy between man and machine grew as we personalized our bots and gave them purpose in this world. As any good engineer is to learning some new way or another, things don’t always work like magic at the onset. Well, 95% of the time it doesn’t. When our bots were to perform, it seemed as if they got stage fright. Some did half the task they were supposed to, some worked smoothly until some freak mechanical or electrical malfunction transpired, some did complete rubbish, some did nothing at all. Needless to say the session was saturated with laughter. At the end of the day, we learned from our errors and those of our peers and moved forward, the ideal process for progress. On Thursday our robotics journey came to an end. However, awaiting us on the horizon was an equally exciting world: Renewable Energy.

Wind Turbine Assembly
Team work at its best! Wind turbine assembly at the Kimroy Bailey Robotics Summer Camp during the Wigton field trip

On arrival at the Wigton Wind Farm alongside the KB gang, I stood trying not to get blown over by the prevailing wind currents, my head fixed on the sky-my mouth open in dumbfoundedness. The enormous wind turbine was as beautiful as it was imposing. The picture of the future, 80m rotor with blades on a ‘spindle’ in a hypnotic fashion. Somehow, the breathtaking view of the coastline from the hill was not enough to take my eyes off of the lanky energy bisons. We went to the AV room for another session with Kimroy Bailey, this time introducing us to renewable energy. We were given a little history on the wind farm and the parts of a turbine were outlined. You couldn’t fathom the glee I felt inside when I found out we would be assembling our own wind turbine, even though it wasn’t to be as big as the ones outside. Solar energy was also featured as KB showed and told of a solar panel, outlining the different parts and their functions. Friday was the grand finale. A little deeper we dove into renewable energy, actually assembling our own solar panel after observing utech’s own solar unit. At the end of the day, the winning bot was announced. Pictures were taken, goodbyes were exchanged.  The perfect learning environment. KB’s renewable robotics camp is the perfect start for young minds, regardless of career path. It will especially be a treat for the technically inclined.

TeamKB Summer Camp
Kimroy Bailey Renewable Robotics Summer Camp participants on their Wigton Windfarm filed trip

This marked the end of our invigorating tenure at the Kimroy Bailey Renewable Robotics Camp. Most commendable was the emphasis on hands-on activities practical sessions are most important where learning a skill is concerned, coupled with short, insightful lectures. This summer Robotics Camp would only have been possible with the support of the parents, sponsors and partners: The University of Technology, Wigton Wind Farm Ltd, GeNNex, Access Financial Services, Klesing Industrial Supplies, Digital Yard Foundation, the Scientific Research Council and the Jamaica Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.  Appreciation is also extended to the Honorable Minister Julian Robinson who encouraged participants at the closing ceremony to make the most the KB Robotics camp experience by utilizing Technology to solve Jamaica’s problems.  KB, keep doing what you do. Let’s engineer a bright future.

 

Jourdan Dunkley,

Aspiring Robotics Engineer

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