Robot Springboard @ Monteverde Costa Rica

Monteverde is a remote cloud forest region approximately 3 hours from the capital city of San Jose.  The last 20 kilometers of travel to Monteverde is via a notorious unpaved mountainous road.  The region is home to multiple nature parks and a permanent population of approximately 5000 people. 

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We chose Monteverde as a region to run a Robot Springboard Camp for all the regions mentioned previously.  In addition, we wanted to start a program in an area where there hadn’t been much exposure to robotics but that we believed could become self-sustaining for a program and ultimately help bring robotics and computing exposure to other schools in the area.  We had contacted several schools throughout Costa Rica and the Monteverde Friends School seemed both interested in working with Robot Springboard and likely to also benefit from the robotics exposure.

 

We had fundraised throughout the year and were fortunate enough to have raised enough money to be able to provide the school with a brand new Lego Mindstorms robotic kit, a refurbished Dell laptop and an extensive library of Lego robotics and NXT programming kits.  We held a class each day from 9AM to Noon for over 20 students and covered building strategies, programming including loops, switches and variables and the use of digital and analog sensors.  The students ranged in age from 3rd graders all the way to one student that had already graduated!  Throughout the week the students worked in teams on a variety of self-chosen projects including solving mazes, line following, and constructing humanoid and arachnid type robots!  The most senior students were incredibly bright and motivated and built a really impressive Lego crane they developed and designed themselves without any pre-existing plans.


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At the end of the week all the students had learned a tremendous amount and were excited about continuing their work with robotics and computing during the regular academic year.  The senior students were well prepared to be the leaders of the Monteverde Friends School robotics club and were excited about helping the younger students learn more.  The whole school was excited about the opportunity to represent the Monteverde region I the Costa Rican and Latin American robotics organizations.

 

Our ultimate hope is that the Monteverde Friends School will be able to serve as a resource center for the entire region and help other schools and students in the area become involved in robotics and computing. 

 

When we returned to Pennsylvania we talked to our First Robotic Challenge (FRC) Team about trying to continue to support the MFS throughout the year.  Obviously we will be available via internet for questions and help however we were especially pleased when OUR FRC team decided to organize a “LEGO parts-athon” at the First Lego League events we help host.  We will ask every team that participates to bring in LEGO parts and supplies that we will send to the Monteverde Friends School to help support their robotics efforts!

 

We are really excited that this seems to be a project that can have a long and lasting effect on the local education.