Summer Camp 2019

This summer, the Providence Engineering Academy once again hosted the very special Robot City summer camp. With assistance from four capable high school engineering students (Alena, Davis, Pedro, and Zach), Mr. Eves and Mr. Meadth put on an unforgettable experience!

(Please note that all photos in this article have been selected to avoid showing camper faces, since not all students are from Providence with a photo release. Apologies if you’re looking for your loved one’s smiling face!)

Day 1: Architecture
After breaking into four teams, each group selected the theme for their quadrant of Robot City. The Green Team chose Time Travel, the Blue Team settled on a Medieval Castle, the Yellow Team laid out an Alien Attack on the Beach, and Red Team was Future City. A quick lesson of folding geometric nets, and all campers from 3rd to 7th Grade were ready to build!

The skyline emerges! A colorful mess of card and tape!

Red Team’s skyscraper went up and up and up, and needed to be
tied down with guy ropes!
Blue Team’s “Nice No-Trap Castle”. Should we believe them?

With inspiring challenges like “Tallest Tower” and “Most Colorful”, each team worked hard to lay out their cities. Skyscrapers rose up six feet into the air, zip lines were strung out, and spaces carefully divided out.

Day 2: CAD and 3D Printing
It might sound complex, but physically printing CAD (computer-aided design) models is something within the reach of any elementary student! Mr. Meadth taught the campers how to use Tinkercad, a free in-browser design tool created by AutoDesk. Designers can use simple shapes such as cylinders, cones, spheres, and prisms to create more complex models, such as houses and rocketships and characters.

Two of our campers work on their CAD models (Owen’s model
on the right is shown in detail below)

This is a great tool to get kids thinking in terms of linear dimensions, negative and positive space, perspective, volume, and it’s just plain creative fun! Here are a couple of examples of what the kids came up with. We also had spaceships, tanks, flying cars, and castles. Wow!

Once created (the models above took the students less than an hour to build), the designs were sent to the 3D printer. At a small enough print size, most models were done in about an hour, in a range of colors. Of course, after the camp the students got to keep whatever they have printed!

It’s just as addictive as watching TV, but at the end of the program
there’s actually something to show for. Thanks, Raise3D!

Day 3: Electrification
Always a favorite! Mr. Meadth gave a quick lesson on simple circuits, explaining terms such as “LED”, “voltage”, “series”, and “parallel”. Each team was given a supply of copper tape, coin batteries, and LEDs, and shown how to connect them together to power their city. It wasn’t long before the entire room was lit up with red, blue, orange, white, and green!

A lovely beach paradise in the shadow of the skyscrapers
(the tidal wave was added later)

The Green Team’s time travel zone included some helpful signs
(because time travel can be confusing)

A scale replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, courtesy of Abigail

All teams took up the extra challenges as well, building working paper switches, including both series and parallel circuits, and working to match their lighting arrangements to their theme. Blue Team created “laser traps” for their medieval castle, and Green Team strung out a long neatly-lit road to mark out their different time travel zones. Billboard were illuminated and “stained-glass” windows lit from the inside.

Mr. Eves works on the Blue Team’s medieval quadrant
LEDs don’t come through well in photos, but you get the idea!

When parents arrived for pickup on Wednesday, the lights went out, and the party started!

Day 4: LEGO Robotics
What’s a Robot City without robots? This year, Mr. Meadth and Mr. Eves guided the campers on how to incorporate LEGO Mindstorms robotics sets. Rather than creating robotic systems that would move around (and potentially destroy delicate buildings and circuits!), the teams focused on stationary mechanical systems. Mr. Meadth gave some lessons on essential mechanical systems (bevelled gears, gear reductions, universal joints, cams and cranks, etc.), issued some fun challenges, and away they all went!

Does this look like anybody’s bedroom floor? Times it by 16.

A futuristic monorail glides around Green Team’s city buildings

What’s a medieval world without an authentic, functional windmill?

We were blown away by all of the amazing creations that campers and their team leaders built: several working elevators (with tracks and with pulleys/windlasses); a slowly rotating time travel portal (sadly not actually functional); a crank-powered shooting spaceship; an amusement park ride; drawbridges; a merry-go-round; several demolition machines!

(P.S. For any parents of elementary students wanting a more cost-friendly version of LEGO Mindstorms, I highly recommend LEGO Boost. At about $150, it is a somewhat simplified system, still with sensors, motors, and fully programmable using a block-based system. The only downside is that it does always need a tablet/phone/computer app to be running via Bluetooth to make it work.)

Day 5: Do Over
At this point in the camp, the kids have learned so many different things and have typically gravitated towards one or the other. Some of them think that LED illumination is the coolest thing, and others just can’t get enough of making CAD models online. So on the fifth day, Mr. Meadth and Mr. Eves issued a few more challenges of various sorts. The teams helped put together a welcome sign with their photo on it; they all constructed a wearable accessory lit up with more lights and batteries. Some made hats and funky glasses and others made glowing swords!

The fun keeps coming on Day 5!

Robot City continued to grow in complexity and variety. Some teams incorporated sensors into their robotic systems, using touch triggers and infrared detectors to more accurately control their elevators and bridges.

By the time parents arrived at 12:30, the teams were ready for the final wrap-up. All points were tallied, and the all-girl Green Team took the grand prize, much to their delight!

Parents were delighted to see everything
the kids had accomplished… and that
someone else was handling the cleanup!

Mr. Meadth and Mr. Eves would like to thank all families for making our third Robot City camp such a success! We intend to run this again in 2020 (new ideas are already in the works!), so please spread the word amongst family and friends. You can start by sharing this article with someone who might be interested! And remember, this camp is open to all students, not just those from Providence. We’re always glad to welcome new friends from outside our regular community.

Until next year, may these junior engineers keep on designing and keep on building!

MS Bridges: Welcome to Mr. Eves!

Joining us this year at Providence is the highly qualified Mr. Matt Eves. A long-time friend of Mr. Meadth, Mr. Eves brings his experiences in engineering and business to the AP Calculus AB class with our seniors, and the Intro to Engineering class with the middle schoolers.

Mr. Eves wasted no time in getting down to one of our famous projects: The Bridge! In teams of two, with a list of required constraints, they set about building the longest possible bridge. This is more than just messing around with LEGO; students were demonstrating that they had learned the underlying structural principles of triangular trusses and bending beams.

Josue and Larry measure their jointed creation

Jeffry, one of the able teacher assistants, helps Paul and Ryken

Elizabeth, Carmen, Nate, and Abigail take a moment to smile!

Taylor and Will understood the need for vertical triangles…
is there anything they were still missing?

Tess and Bryce carefully counting the pieces they used

Jonny, another of our teacher assistants, helping Hunter and Reggie


(By the way, if you’re wondering about the teacher assistants: Jonny, Jeffry, Emma, and Ruby are all acting in this capacity this semester. Having taken this class once already, they are now bringing their learning to another level by helping the other students. There is no better way to learn than by teaching! They have also been taking time out with Mr. Meadth during class to learn CAD tools, with some of their creations being 3D printed.)

Upon completion, the seven teams laid wooden tracks across their bridges and put them to the test. All teams performed incredibly well, with almost no flexing evident. The following video shows the tests–in each one, what elements of design do you see that are contributing to the bridge’s strength?

A great start to the year! Next step: learning about gears and torque. Students will combine these lessons with their knowledge of structural strength to build a special machine… can you guess what it is? All this, so we can learn to build a robot that moves properly and is mechanically strong.

Browse around and check out some of our other recent posts. Feel free to email Mr. Meadth or Mr. Eves for any questions about the Providence engineering programs, and share this post freely with family and friends!

Guessing Games and Plywood Furniture

The first couple of weeks are already under our belt, and we are off to a good start in the Providence Engineering Academy! This year, we have ten determined engineers-in-training in the older group, and thirteen in the younger. The older group will spend the year studying statics—the science of things that don’t move—and the younger will be learning the ins and outs of both robotics and mathematics.

Both groups started off the year with a simple exercise to test their divergent and convergent thinking skills. Mr. Meadth had a 3D-printed model of an well-known mechanical device hidden in a box, broken down into its twelve constituent pieces. The device was unnamed, but the students were assured that they were very familiar with it, and that there were several such devices in the room all around. He brought out the pieces one by one, and after each new piece was revealed, the students set about guessing what the device could be.
Congratulations to Pedro and Alena! (And also to Claire, who learned not to second guess herself!) After only four of the twelve pieces were revealed, they correctly guessed the identity of the complete device. Sound easy? Here’s the four pieces they had in front of them when they guessed correctly. Don’t scroll down too far unless you want the answer!
Each of these little red prisms are about half an inch tall in actual size
What could the entire device be?
Give up yet?
Scroll down…
If you guessed that the complete device was a lock and key, well done!
The four prisms are on top, called the driver pins
There’s even more going on inside!

In their respective classes, Alena’s and Pedro’s prize was to build the device up from its twelve pieces, without any help from the teacher. With cheering and suggestions from their peers, Alena and Pedro were successfully able to get it all together in time!
Alena fits the pieces together in the new Room 102
There’s plenty more going on since then. To get warmed up in their “study of things that don’t move”, the Advanced Engineering I group is working in three competitive teams to produce a new piece of classroom furniture for Room 102. All three teams settled for variations of plywood lecterns (not podiums—sorry if you’ve been misusing this word). We look forward to seeing what emerges over the next couple of weeks.
Colby, Gabe, and Todd work together on their piece of modern art;
the purchased plywood patiently awaits!
Stay posted for updates on the furniture, and to find out just what it means to study robotics in the high school program. (Hint: we aren’t fooling around with LEGO anymore!)

MS Final Challenge: Flawless Victory!

A new record was set this semester, with the biggest group ever signing up for Intro to Engineering in Room 202. The eighth cohort to take this class, they were full of excitement as they spent the last four weeks of class designing and building a LEGO robot to respond to Mr Meadth’s latest Final Challenge.

In some ways, this was the most difficult challenge yet: the robot would be placed in a square walled ring, collect a colored item, and deposit it outside of the ring. Sound simple? To scoop up a smooth plastic object on a smooth wooden floor and get it over that mere 3.5″ of height is far more difficult than it sounds! How does the robot know when it has the item in hand? How can it lift it up? How to release it? Should it be able to steer? How does it know when it hits the wall? Will it behave the same way every time?
The game area: an 8 ft wooden square, with 3.5″ high walls; five
items were scattered for collection and removal
Mr Meadth’s advice to the students was plain: the robot that won this competition would be fast, simple, and reliable. Fast: this is a race against the clock, with only 30 seconds to beat the other robot in the ring. Simple: every additional moving part is one more thing that can go wrong. Reliable: it must do the same predictable thing time after time.
Left to right: Zach and Sam show their formidable forklift machine
After the last frantic rush of finishing work, eight complex machines lined up to take the floor. Bedecked with an impressive array of forklifts, scoops, and shovels, the robots stared each other down with baleful red eyes (ultrasonic sensors, actually, but the lure of personification is hard to overcome!).
Ruby and Brooklyne’s robot finds its way into the corner, missing
the yellow item by a whisker!
After an intense Friday of preliminary rounds, it was clear that one team’s robot stood out head and shoulders above the rest; Emma and Donna’s machine was indeed fast and reliable. Spearing the item every time, undefeated in every round, they were placed in pole position. Honors also went to Avala and Isabela, who did excellently on the first day.
Left to right: Emma and Donna sit proudly after another
winning round!
Emma and Donna (rear) narrowly beat out Avala and Isabela
Teams were given a chance over the weekend to regroup. Any programming or mechanical fixes could be carried out, in time for the elimination rounds. Several teams took advantage of this, and fine-tuned their bot in the hopes of gaining victory.
Left to right: Masa and Ma.kaha pause for the camera while the
competition rages on behind them!
On the big day, it was made clear once again just how challenging this task was. Several teams did not score even once—it really is that hard! Many teams found their robot just didn’t know when to lift the item over the wall. The lesson was hard learned: a robot is utterly deaf, dumb, and blind except for proper sensors and programming.
Left to right: Isaac and Josiah carefully plan their attack vector
After several rounds, Emma and Donna once again distinguished themselves as undefeated at the top of the pack. Avala and Isabela also scored solid victories. Josiah and Isaac also scored a victory, as did Sam and Zach. Caleb and Harry deserve an honorable mention; in the last round they were finally able to remove an item from the field… but it hit the ground a quarter-second later than their opponent!
The semi-final was swift and to the point. Emma and Donna maintained their winning streak by pushing Avala and Isabela out of the competition. Isaac and Josiah beat out Sam and Zach and advanced to the final round.
Would Emma and Donna meet their final match? Sadly for the boys, not this time, and not ever! In an astounding display of consistency, the girls won yet again—with a personal best of 4 seconds—while the boys swung wide and missed the target altogether. Flawless victory!
The final victory! Our photographer Isaiah captures the winning
moment an instant before the item hits the ground.
As always, congratulations to all participants, and to the many parents, staff members, and friends who came out to see the competition across both days. We were thrilled to have you, and we look forward to seeing what the next Final Challenge will be.
From left to right: Caleb, Harry, Zach, Josiah, Zach, Isaac, Brooklyne,
Ruby, Avala, Isabela, Emma, Donna, Cameron, Alan, James, Ma.kaha,
Masa, Isaiah, Sydney, Abby, Mr Meadth

MS Science & Engineering Expo 2018

The annual Middle School Science & Engineering Expo was a huge success once again, thanks to the hard work and positive attitudes of so many students, parents, teachers, and staff. This year’s theme of The Human Machine inspired a range of hands-on explorations, from Masa and Cameron’s tennis and baseball clinic, to Heidi and Ella’s eye dissection, to robotic prosthetic hands built by the Intro to Engineering class.

Harry, Ruby, Isabela, and James show off their robotic hands

Elementary students get in on the action!

Masa shows Mr. Sunukjian how it’s done!

Mr. Alker worked hard with every 8th Grade student over a period of several weeks to hone their demonstrations to perfection. With such a rich inspiration as the human body itself, students were well able to explore athletics, biology, physics, and engineering.
Never too young to begin!  Providence class of  2033?

Mr. Alker explains the human lung to a captive audience

Maya walks her family through the inner workings of
the human digestive system

Zach, Isaiah, and Sam with their lung test apparatus

Mr. Meadth also brought some high school engineering students to show off their recently completed gliders. High school 3D printers were running hot all the while, courtesy of Todd and Alena, producing Providence keychains for our guests.
Mr. Hurt, high school science teacher, measures his heart rate
alongside Ava

Heidi and Ella showing the inner workings of a cow’s eyeball,
much to the delight of visiting parents

Todd and Alena busily keeping those
printers running on behalf of the high
school Engineering Academy

With sweet treats provided by parent volunteers (thank you!) and Mrs. Luy welcoming guests at the gate, there were plenty of smiles all around. Good things are happening at Providence! For more information about middle school science, please contact Mr. Alker. For more information on our engineering programs, please contact Mr. Meadth. Don’t forget to check out the other articles on this blog, and subscribe for automatic updates.
Ella helps two elementary students fill out their scavenger hunt

Abby and Liza calculated the energy delivered in tasty snacks

Lily taught how music affects heart rate

MS Engineering: The Final Challenge!

Wow! What an incredible display of robotic strength and fortitude! Mr. Meadth would like to thank all of the eighteen middle school students who worked so hard and waited so long to show their programming prowess. Many thanks also to all of the many parents who came to watch.

Mr. Meadth watches for adherence to the rules of competition
as Kassy and Miranda head off against Tzevon and Mark
Tully and Dennis make the final checks as Audrie and Jeffry
prepare their program

Miranda and Kassy with the biggest, blockiest
bot of them all!

After a gripping round of preliminaries, it was clear that Jon and Ella were not to be beaten, consistently needing only 43 seconds both times to get all three cubes in the goal. Ryan and Gideon zoomed down the line with double wins, as fast as 37 seconds. Kassy and Miranda took it slow and steady, but won both matches with an average of 2:19. A special qualifying round also put Liza and Kaitlyn through with their prize horse, with a record-breaking 18 seconds!

Tully and Dennis proudly showing their machine

Ryan and Gideon were very proud of their
geared-up racer
In the elimination round, Liza and Kaitlyn beat out Jon and Ella with a lightning-fast 21 seconds. The secret? High speed gear ratios, where Jon and Ella stuck to direct drive. And in a stunning upset, Ryan and Gideon lost out–despite their high speed gears–to the perfectly consistent Kassy and Miranda, who beat their previous times by over a minute!
Mark and Tzevon designed a conveyor belt to
get their cubes in the box

Jeffry and Audrie went for the “tall tricycle” design

In an all-girl final round, Liza and Kaitlyn made the first drop. But they fumbled the second, and Kassy and Miranda faithfully dropped theirs in the box to equal the scores. A couple of unforced errors, some bouncing out, and the scores were again tied at two all! In the end, however, nothing could stop the speed and accuracy of Liza and Kaitlyn, who wrapped it all up with an impressive time of 49 seconds! Well done, girls!
For more photos and videos, students can use their Providence Google accounts to check out Miss Hurlbert’s online folder, here.

From left to right (rear): Mr. Meadth, Gideon, Jeffry, Audrie,
Kassy, Miranda, Liza, Kaitlyn, Ella, Lily, Paul, Angel
Front: Jon, Evan

MS Engineering: A Photo Update

The MS Engineering students just finished their penultimate project: to build a “stock” model according to instructions, and then to program it themselves to get it to work. This is a warm-up to their final project, which sees them build and program their very own robot in The Final Challenge without any instructions or other assistance.

Enjoy the photos, and feel free to browse our other articles, most of which are focused on the high school Academy. Send your comments and questions to us at rmeadth@providencesb.org.

Ryan and Mark show off their Znap, which moves around in
random directions, snapping at anything that comes too close;
apologies for poor photography!

Gideon and Kaitlyn built a challenging Elephant, which walks
and picks up items with its articulated trunk–very impressive! 

Dennis and Tully also put together a Znap, and learned a lot
about the importance of distinguishing between sensor and
motor ports!

Kassy and Liza (absent) also built an Elephant, which had an
impressively choreographed trunk routine complete with sound
effects; we also wanted to see if it could tip over one of the
puppies 

Evan and Angel built the only Robot Arm H25; it is something
similar to a factory assembly robot, picking up and releasing
objects within its reach

Jonny and Ella put together the only Stair Climber, which was
able to successfully climb the pile of books pictured 

A (mostly) successful earlier test run of the Stair Climber

Tzevon and Paul with their own Elephant and its unique slow-
motion dance routine

Audrie and Miranda consider their robot Puppy–almost as
troublesome as the real thing! 

Jeffry and Lily describing some of the challenges of just getting
their Puppy to stand and sit–who knew it would be so much work?!

MS Engineering: The First Month

The popularity of the middle school engineering program at Providence has really taken off this year; for the first time, we will be admitting eighteen students in both first and second semester! It’s our largest class size yet for this program, which is exciting. But what exactly, I hear you ask, are students doing in that class?

We kicked off the year with some pretty standard stuff. Newton’s Laws kept us busy for a little while, talking about how objects in this universe move and interact. The highlight of this unit would have to be the inertia demonstration. Remove one tablecloth very quickly from underneath a dinner set, and hope that inertia does its job! Ryan was a very cooperative test subject.

The students also started the year with some simple challenges, focusing on teamwork, speed, and intuitive design. How many textbooks can you hold up, at least five inches off the table, using only two sheets of paper and a yard of tape? By the way, you only have two minutes to plan and three minutes to build! The class record is 26, held by Josh and Pedro a couple of years ago, but hats off this year to Audrie and Kassy, holding 12 books six inches high. At 3.6 pounds per textbook, that’s 43 pounds!

Paul and Lily look on as Ella places her third book; unfortunately,
it was the straw that broke the camel’s back

The most recent challenge was to build a bridge between two desks. After learning some basic principles of structural mechanics (triangle rigidity and maximizing the second moment of area of the cross-section), the students set about the task. We always talk in terms of constraints in this class, and the various constraints were as follows:

Materials:
Only allowed to use LEGO beams from a provided parts list
Time:
Three days of class
Personnel:
Teams of two
Length:
As long as possible (maximize)
Load:
Must support wooden train tracks (static load) and a motorized train running across it (dynamic load)
Other:
Must demonstrate the principles of good bending structures that we talked about
After breaking into teams, the students quickly set about collecting their pieces, and sketching their designs. Our enthusiastic students snapped together beams and frames, doing their best to imitate the rigid triangular structures they had been shown.
Gideon, Liza, and Kaitlyn working hard!

Tensions ran high (no pun intended) as the heavy little locomotive crawled across the tracks. The length of the bridges varied widely, from the shortest at 30 cm (1 ft) to the longest at 99 cm (over 3 ft). But most importantly: would the helpless engine tumble into the chasm?

The little engine thought it could, and so did Dennis and Jeffry,
with their sharply defined triangles clearly showing

Audrey and Kassy almost lost their load, but everything held
together in the end!

Miranda and Evan held their breath as the locomotive crawled
across their creation
In fact, although we desperately wanted to see some disaster, not a single one of the bridges failed! This is a new record in the engineering elective, and perhaps a tribute to their collective wisdom and skill (or maybe to their teacher?).
The next challenge? Use their knowledge of torque and rotation to build a crane that can lift as much load as possible.
Kassy and Evan carefully plan their motorized crane
Ella applies the power of a protractor

Dennis and Paul take a break from the drawing board to pose
for the camera

Tully and Liza consider Mr. Meadth’s past designs
Stay tuned, and don’t forget to ask your students how the work is coming!