ISE Camps show students the potential of engineering

ISE Summer Camp 2017

The Intelligent Systems Engineering program at the School of Informatics and Computing is about what engineering is and will be. The Intelligent Systems Engineering Summer Camp was all about making students dream of what they could become.

The inaugural round of ISE Summer Camps welcomed 43 students over three weeks to seven different sessions designed to explore the possibilities of using modern information technology approaches, such as digital manufacturing and intelligent systems design, on a variety of projects. Students 13 and up had the opportunity to take part in camps focusing on robots, fabrication, wearables, sentient architecture, and virtual and augmented reality.

"Students were diverse in age, interest, knowledge, and energy,” said Katy Börner, Distinguished Professor of Information Science and one of the instructors for the camp. “They created amazing teams of young makers and hackers who did fantastic work.”

Campers used the Scratch and Python programming languages to program robots, sensors, Raspberry Pi computers, and Arduino LilyPads to read and respond to a number of inputs, and they had the chance to learn how to use computer-aided design (CAD) to create objects on 3D printers and computer numerical control (CNC) milling machines. Students also learned to use smart materials, simple circuitry, and conductive paint, thread, and tape to create wearable interactive objects.

Camps also included sessions on augmented reality, with students learning the Unity and Vuforia platforms to build and interact with virtual objects in a real-world space, and virtual reality. The VR session allowed campers to develop 3D worlds and games. Camp participants also constructed sentient sculptures that could sense and react to their environment, and advanced activities included the development of user interfaces to program and control a robotic balloon shaped like a fish.

The purpose of the camps was to introduce students to the exploding world of the Internet of Things (IoT) and illustrate how technology and engineering can come together to create a new reality.

Andrew Theriault, a Bloomington native, enjoyed the opportunity to work with a number of different technologies. “The Unity Virtual Reality set was fun,” Theriault said. “I liked programming the robots with Python and sensors, too. It was a cool experience.”

Sandra Yang, another Bloomington native, also enjoyed the virtual reality set, and the sentient architecture fired her imagination.

“The dendrites were really cool,” Yang said. “I love building things, and it was fun to see them react to their environment. You don’t normally get to see things like that.”

Alexis Fox, also from Bloomington, was thrilled with the chance to earn some experience with unique software and hardware.

“I feel like I have a future in engineering now because I’ve worked with the technology during the camp," Fox said. "Engineering is the future of robotics, and it’s going to create a lot of jobs. It’s fun to program, and the dendrites were interesting because you can’t find that anywhere else.”

The process of bringing together fun with technology appealed to another Bloomington student, Thomas Sherman.

"I enjoyed learning how to integrate electronics into interactive toys," Sherman said.

The lessons learned in this year’s round of camps will set the foundation for future events.

“In the near future, students will connect wearables, robots, fabrication machines, and sentient architectures to the Internet creating novel IoT setups and functionality,” Börner said. “I am looking forward to having students build, explore, and learn from futuristic IoT setups. Augmented reality visualizations might come in handy for understanding, communicating, visually debugging, and optimizing diverse interconnected IoT setups.”

A number of teachers and counselors guided the students during the camp, including Alex Shroyer, Christian McKay, Nicole Jacquard, Gregor von Laszewski, Bill Sherman, Martin Swany, and Börner with full support by ISE Department Chair Geoffrey Fox. Staff support was provided by Rebecca Conway Winkle, Heather Yarnall-Kates, and Julie Overfield.

Interested to learn more? Come join us at for a showcase of Dendrites and other camp elements at Wonderlab’s Robot Rollcall Aug. 5 and at Bloomington’s Makevention Aug. 26, 2017.

Visit ISE’s Summer Camps website for more information.

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