Robot Springboard @ San Jose, Costa Rica

In addition to the Monteverde Friends School project we also ran robotics programs in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica.  As we described previously we were interested in working with The Intel Corporation because we have been so inspired by their projects for education, especially of girls, throughout the world such as “She Will” and “Global girls”.  In researching opportunities for global STEM outreach programs we had learned that Intel had a major manufacturing presence in Costa Rica and was committed to educational outreach programs in the local communities. 


Through a series of letters and emails we developed a program where we would work with Intel and the Omar Dengo Foundation to run robotics workshops hosting 30 middle school students a day for 2 days.  The Omar Dengo Foundation is a  non-profit organization whose main objective is to help people through innovative educational programs become more proficient with new technologies.  Because these workshops were to be held exclusively in Spanish we self published a 50 page workbook in Spanish so that the students would have a good resource to use .  We did this because we weren’t sure how our 5 years of school based Spanish language education would allow us to effectively communicate on our own during a fast paced technical workshop.

 

The Omar Dengo Foundation headquarters in San Jose is a remarkable and modern facility dedicated to advancing the technical knowledge and abilities of all Costa Ricans. We were able to hold our course in “The Japan Room’ which was a large conference room that had been donated by the country of Japan.  There was a large LCD projector, screen and microphone system which helped in running a workshop for 30 children a day.  We had 10 robot kits and laptops so that students could work in teams of 3 or 4 to a laptop and kit.

DSC_0253DSC_0316DSC_0341DSC_0284DSC_0282DSC_0147DSC_0304DSC_0350DSC_0375

 

The experience of translating a technical workbook into another language was a great learning experience and we are indebted to our Spanish teacher Señora Herrera for her guidance and assistance.  It was interesting to us how things couldn’t always be simply translated.  For example the main part of the NXT robotic system in the States is always referred to as the “NXT Brick”.  In Spanish the word for “brick” is lladrilo but in using this the students would think only of a brick such as used in construction.  Instead we ultimately chose to call it the “NXT Brain” or just “NXT”.

 

DSC_0252

At the Omar Dengo Foundation we were able to work with Sara Osorio Castro (see the adjacent picture) as well as multiple Intel volunteers.  This was really exciting for us as Señora Osorio Castro is involved in the robotics curriculum for much of Costa Rica and Latin America.  She provided incredible help with translating and speaking to the students and accompanying teachers.  During the workshop, the students became comfortable with using the NXT programming environment, navigating mazes, using touch and light sensors.  A high point of the program was “robot soccer”!  It turned out that our camp coincided with the world cup of soccer and Costa Rica had done remarkably well advancing farther than it ever had before.   In “robot soccer” we built a “field” out of poster board sized paper that was approximately 3 feet by 5 feet and we created a large black oval.  We then positioned mini soccer goals, players and inch high soccer balls on the field so the students could “compete” with two robots at a time.  They quickly learned how to program their light sensor to detect the black oval at the edge of the field and turn their robot around so it could then try to push the soccer balls towards the goals!

 

We are excited and gratified that at the conclusion of these workshops both Señora Sara Osorio Castro from the Omar Dengo Foundation and the volunteers from The Intel Corporation who helped with  our project asked for PDF copies of our workbook.  We are hoping they are going to be used throughout Costa Rica and even Latin America.