One of our chief goals this summer is to take the fun and excitement of robots and technology and insert practical school related subjects into them. It is no secret that kids learn best when they are excited and engaged in the material they’re learning, but new brain science is making clear exactly how this happens.

Brain research shows that all of the activity normally associated with the frontal lobe (learning and judging and weighing) has to be ultimately encoded into long-term memory. This long term encoding is governed by the amygdaloid complex which is in turn activated by emotionally relevant experiences.  Teaching campers who are excited, engaged and autonomously working on lesson solutions not only allows them to have a fun learning experience, but also allows for them to encode, retain and retrieve that experience and information in their long-term memory for future use.

If we can:

  • Inspire our kids to become excited about working with robots in lessons that teach traditional academic ideas of math and science and engineering, and:
  • Guide them through a series of progressive challenges and then:
  • Summarize and encode the experience with a series of games and contests based on material, they stand a good chance to encoding these basic but critical concepts vital for future growth into long-term memory.

Oh, and by the way, the campers are having lots of fun in the process.

One of the technologies we work with are NXT robots which feature a core 32 bit processor, multiple sensors (touch, sound, light, color, ultrasonic and pitch) and a USB connection linked to an intuitive programming interface on a computer.  The essence of programming a robot (as opposed to a toy or a radio controlled car) is that the camper has an active and creative role in programming the device to operate independently and autonomously and react to its environment.  To do this, we present our students with a series of challenges for their robot to overcome as we ask our students program the robots to react to the inputs from the environment.   Robots navigate all manner of obstacles, hallways and doors, ramps and gates.  Campers work in teams and sometimes-even battle each other with robo sumo competitions all the while learning in a way that inserts the content into long term memory.

Robots are perfect for bridging the gap between the often boring and baffling symbolic representations of the concepts of a math lesson and its real world applications.  Take the algebraic equation asking a student to solve for x:

(6-X) = 2

Robots can make this problem come to life and retain student interest by physically rolling forward 6 rotations and then backwards 4 rotations on a number line.  In a Fun Bot Lab teaching unit, the backwards movement  (described as X) is programmed and known by one camper while another tries to solve for it.  When seen with the clarity of an actual representation, and then translated back and forth into math symbols on the board and robotic movement on the floor, campers can see the relevance, simplicity and value of working with algebraic symbols.  Perhaps most critically, because camper excitement and interest was stimulated, the learned symbols, processes and applications of lesson have a greater chance of entering into long-term memory.

Students who are antsy and have a hard time sitting still thrive in an environment where one can constantly be getting up, chasing after a robot, connecting it and reprogramming it over and over.  NXT robots are made by LEGO and like their namesake, are readily able to be broken down into their constituent parts and used over and over in countless inventive ways.  Because the assembled robots can have minor breakdowns, loose parts and often do not track exactly the same way, they are an ideal tool for teaching kids the essential trouble shooting skills of patience, focus and persistence to get them to perform the robotics challenges they face.

Come on and “Robot-Up” with us!

Come join us this summer for the best camp experience of your life!

Citation: Long Term Learning and Cerebral Cortex

Positron emission tomography of cerebral glucose metabolism in adult human subjects was used to investigate amygdaloid complex (AC) activity associated with the storage of long-term memory for emotionally arousing events. Subjects viewed two videos (one in each of two separate positron emission tomography sessions, separated by 3-7 days) consisting either of 12 emotionally arousing film clips (“E” film session) or of 12 relatively emotionally neutral film clips (“N” film session), and rated their emotional reaction to each film clip immediately after viewing it. Three weeks after the second session, memory for the videos was assessed in a free recall test. As expected, the subjects’ average emotional reaction to the E films was higher than that for the N films. In addition, the subjects recalled significantly more E films than N films. The findings support the view derived from both animal and human investigations that the AC is selectively involved with the formation of enhanced long-term memory associated with emotionally arousing events.

Fun Bot Lab is staffed by experienced, caring and knowledgeable instructors & counselors who delight in transmitting their love and knowledge of technology to their young students. Our staff is drawn from the best high schools, colleges and universities and have extensive experience in every subject they teach.

As teachers and mentors, they are encouraged to discover just what it is that each child is intensely interested in and allow those interests to flourish and drive the child’s discovery. In addition, we provide extensive training and lesson plan development to our teachers and counselors so that they have clear and defined goals for their teaching.

One of the marks of a great teacher is the ability to adjust the teaching demands to the level of the students in each workshop. We place our kids carefully, and have “scaffolding” in our lesson plans to allow kids that are “getting it” to run ahead with their knowledge, while students with less experience will be accommodated with additional instruction. In different workshops before and after lunch, we turn to the creative digital arts to open up the expressive and creative possibilities of technology. The whole experience is topped off with a summer fun camp atmosphere where spontaneous creativity is celebrated, and the child’s interests are allowed to fully flower.

A Fun Bot Lab Summer robotics camp, girls and boys are encouraged to immerse themselves in technology in a supporting nurturing atmosphere. To that end, whenever possible, we will group boys and girls in classes when teaching robotics and programming in the morning. Taught by female and male instructors, these gender mixed courses will allow kids to fully express and explore their ideas inside an often challenging technical curriculum.

Later on in different workshops, when we focus on digital media, creative team-building and expressive computer arts, the workshops are integrated along the lines of interest and ability. We are excited about the prospect of achieving the best of both worlds–a safe and nurturing environment in the workshops when technical skills are taught, and an open and inclusive atmosphere in the afternoon when creative ideas are urged to take flight.

Come join us this summer!

What is STEM? And how does it relate to our camp?

Science, technology, engineering, and math are disciplines that undergird our technological society – and knowledge of them will be the keys for some of the most advanced and high-paying jobs in the future. National groups like NASA and the National Science Foundation as well as past and present United States Presidents from both political parties have highlighted these skills as being critical to maintaining our nation’s competitiveness in a global environment.

Fun Bot Labs seeks to incorporate some basic concepts from each one of these disciplines into each one of our lesson blocks during each week of camp. Based in the use of robotics during our Building Lab and Programming Lab, our students pursue challenges that use engineering and technology in the robotics,science in the procedures for discovering the forces that govern them, and math to create the formulas and final comprehensions of their use. STEM studies are perfectly suited to a camp environment where there is space, time and a culture for them to flourish and re-enforce one another. In the presence of great teachers passionate about guiding their students to success, students can dash about the room chasing their robots and have hands-on manipulation of hardware and software that form the building blocks to this key area of learning.

All of our programming and hands-on workshops are oriented towards buttressing fundamental science, technology, engineering and math concepts. Oftentimes “stove-piped” into traditional departments in an academic school setting, these four branches of knowledge can easily be integrated in a fluid and creative camp setting.

For instance, if there is a challenge involving getting a robot to pull a large object, science will teach the kids about friction and force, technology will teach the kids on how to properly use the application to program the robot,engineering will teach the kids on how to build the robot to most efficiently pull the block, and math will allow students to understand and calculate the numbers of the forces at work in the entire project.

The ability to build on and use S.T.E.M. skills will be critical for anyone seeking a job in the new high tech fields are emerging in this country as well as the overall competitiveness of the United States as it seeks to maintain its position as a global leader in technology. By seeking to highlight and integrate these skills, Fun Bot Lab seeks to initiate the process for kids to get comfortable with the interrelation of these critical subjects.

Come join us for the summer of your life!


NASA K-4 education

Problem Solving. Teamwork. Collaboration. All of the skills necessary to thrive in the social and collaborative networks of the modern workplace are targeted for specific measurement at our camp. We present challenges that not only get our kids to think, but require them to come up with teamwork –based solutions. Our instructors have templates and teaching rubrics that allow them to assess how students are doing in these critical areas.

Often times, in a traditional academic context, 20 kids will work on 20 identical problems in side-by-side isolation. While this may be necessary at times for testing and creating benchmarks for student comprehension, it is rarely how a real-world laboratory or collaborative high-tech work environment works. Many educators use online learning environments that smoothly present a series of carefully calibrated problems to solve. Again, while this may be an effective initial teaching tool, it misses presenting lessons in the way people interact, cooperate and resolve disputes.

Our kids work with constructed robots in teams to solve novel problems and at the same time develop critical skills of collaboration and teamwork. Sometimes the wheels of the robots come loose. Sometimes the treads don’t exactly track right. Sometimes the ultrasonic sensors bounce off an object at a different angle and the reading is not correct. Sometimes partners have different ideas on how to solve a problem. All of these problems – embedded in a real world of physical objects – present an ideal environment for teaching and encouraging problem-solving, patience and persistence in the successful pursuit of achieving the challenge goals. Our teachers are instructed to teach and guide students in the critical skills of persistence and problem solving, cooperation and leadership, tact and patience. They encourage and acknowledge successful teamwork and perseverance when they occur, and offer guidance and assistance when they are missing.

Teamwork and collaboration have always been important – but recently for technology teachers, they have come into sharp focus as a key skill that our kids are going to need in the future. At Carnegie Mellon University, Computer Science Professor Randy Pausch pioneered a system for rating his students on how well they worked together on a virtual reality project. His insight was that smart, technologically-minded kids might be able to excel at understanding and solving equations, but in the real world they almost always would be part of teams seeking to solve problems. His solution was to measure the ways people worked together and to present the results to the different teams. A Fun Bot Lab, we have a similar emphasis on encouraging and guiding teamwork and collaboration, for it is in cooperating and working with others that a bright, talented kids will become truly successful.