Robot Springboard @ Homer Alaska

Homer Alaska is nestled in the most southwestern tip of the Kenai Penninsula.  The journey to Homer Alaska was literally and metaphorically "a long and winding road."  By car it is 4.5 hours from Anchorage and if you were to drive from Philadelphia to Homer it would be a bit over 4500 miles.  Even with flying and driving it was two full days of travel.  Logistically, however, physically getting to Homer was the most straightfoward part of this project.  We ultimately came to call, the trials and tribulations of getting this project started, "The Long and Winding Road To Homer Alaska."

The Long and Winding Road to Homer

One year prior to running the camp in Homer, in the summer of 2012, we contacted members of the FIRST Lego League (FLL) in Anchorage and explained our interest in running a Robot Springboard robotics camp in one or two communities in Alaska.  They were supportive and helpful and identified two communities that were interested in having us run programs in the summer of 2013 and suggested that we recontact them after the first of the New Year.  

In January of 2013 we recontacted the FLL staff in Anchorage as well as members of the prospective communities.  Unfortunately, interest in holding summer robotics programs seemed to have waned and neither community was interested in proceeding.  At this point we could have cancelled the project but instead we contacted between 40 to 50 potential community resources throughout Alaska.  These included local libraries, youth and recreation centers, 4-H clubs and the Girls Scouts.  We became really good at dealing with rejection; in most cases we did not receive any response back, in a few cases we received a thanks for our inquiries but were told there was not any interest in a program.  The process of emailing, writing and phone calls took almost four months from January to April and still we had not found a location in Alaska to hold our robotics program.  We were discouraged but we were also persistant and committed.

homer ak sign

Ultimately, in late April 2013, we received a positive response from a community Girls and Boys center in Homer.  They were awaiting word on funding for a summer enrichment program which would run in the mornings and were interested in having us run the robotics program in the afternoons.  We sent them our syllabus and plans for the camp and awaited the results of their school district meeting the following week.  We heard back the following week that the summer program and therefore our program was confirmed and we finalized our travel and lodging plans.  Hooray, Robot Springboard @ Alaska was going to happen!

Our excitement was short lived. 

One week later we heard back that the whole school district funding had been cancelled and the girls and boys community center would be closed for the entire summer - once again we were "back to the drawing board" but this time it was the middle of May and our flight to Alaska was scheduled for the middle of June.  We were fortunate that the local members of the community were interested and supportive of our program even though they would not be able to run their summer enrichment program.  With their help we contacted many other centers and resources in the Homer area and ultimately the Alaskan Center for Coastal Studies was willing to allow us to use their facility to host our camp

One of Homer's nicknames is "The end of the road" but for us and Robot Springboard it was just the beginning of the journey!


We ran Robot Springboard @ Homer Alaska from June 15-21, 2013.  The camp was a great experience and over the course of 5 days we  had over 25 different kids attend.  (On the first day we had twelve and by the last day we had 20+).  We had a great time not only helping teach, and getting the kids attending excited about robotics, computer programming and STEM but we were thrilled about the adults that visited.  We had several middle school teachers, 4-H leaders and Girl Scout leaders visit the camp to learn more about working with the Lego Mindstorm kits and running robotics programs.  A week after we left a meeting was held at one of the community centers in Homer to explore having an ongoing robotics club in Homer!

A National Public Radio Interview and Newspaper articles regarding our Homer project are here

The original webpage describing our Robot Springboard @ Homer project can be viewed here.

A slideshow of our Robot Springboard @Homer Robotics program is visible below.  The soundtrack is "A Changing World" composed by Keith Merrill and licensed from audio jungle for use.