DISD STEM ExpoTags: motivate, connect, and outreach
Task: Present at the DISD STEM Expo
DISD STEM Expo has been our busiest event this year. Overall, we met with over 1000 participants for both the 3D Printing event and the Sumo-Robots station. To maximize event participation, Big Though, our sponsor, had created “tracker” sheets. Every participant was given one of these sheets, and any time they visited a station sponsored by Big Thought, they were given a sticker to track their progress. So, naturally, we had more participants visit our booth than initially anticipated. In typical Iron Reign fashion, we drew a crowd with the presence of the MXP - luckily, we had an extra set of hands to help out from both Imperial Robotics and Iron Star. Despite the fact that this was a first-time event for many of the members helping out, STEM Expo ran smoothly.
We started out by setting up the MXP and the EV3 robots. After ensuring that the MXP was stocked up with laptops and 3D printers, we set up sumo mats, laptops and LEGO Mindstorm Robots in tables outside the vehicle. All the freshmen were given a quick crash-course on how to run the Sumo-Robots session, while the seniors ensured that all of the FTC robots were demo-ready.
The event started out pretty slow, but eventually, it got to the point that we had a line outside the MXP and about 7 robots on each of the sumo mats. Since the participants were of varying ages, one of our biggest challenges was trying to convey the message of actually coding the robot across a variety of audiences. We learned earlier on that the best way to teach younger audiences how to code the robots was by letting them test out each block of code, so that they could get a sense of what they were trying to accomplish.
Meanwhile, in the MXP, a line began queuing outside due to the sheer number of participants inside the vehicle. All participants first observed a demo on how to 3D print a keychain, after which we began working. SEM Robotics members floated around the vehicle to help out anyone who needed assistance. Since attempting to print out 30 keychains in 4 printers would hold up incoming participants, we had participants exit the MXP after they finished modelling their keychains. Then, around 15 minutes later, participants would come back in to retrieve their keychains.
Our booth could not have operated as smooth as it did without BigThought, for helping us staff and maintain the MXP, and DISD for giving us the opportunity to introduce FIRST to such a large audience. As hectic as it was trying to teach block programming and 3D modelling to students with little to no technical experience, the event ran much more systematically than we could have expected. It was energizing to see children excitedly “battle” their robots, and to see them walk away, waving a 3D-printed keychain, We are incredibly thankful for having been able to interact with the next generation of engineers, and giving them a platform to see robotics as a comprehendable concept.