Virginia students learn how to use robots at STEMability camp

Designed for students with disabilities

BLACKSBURG, Va. – More than a dozen students were invited to a special technology camp at Virginia Tech this week learning about robots.

The robots, similar to a remote control car, are helping to change how students understand and learn technology.

"We basically gave this robot multiple commands and the robots were able to execute them," Kit Barker said.

Kit Barker, a high school student from Great Falls, is one of the dosen students at the STEMability Camp.
It's for high school juniors and seniors from across the commonwealth interested in some form of robotics, encouraging science, technology, engineering and math careers.

"I'm really hoping to find a career that I'm interested in and right now, I'm hoping to go into computer engineering but right now robotics is still definitely on my list to consider," said Barker.

The most unique concept is the camp is for student with disabilities. Barker has ADHD.

"It really makes me feel a lot calmer about college, knowing I can get help and accommodations for my ADHD," Barker said.

Robotics has been shown also known as social robotics to Sean to actually help students or people with those kind of disabilities," Alex Leonessa said. 

Alex Leonessa says he and another professor were inspired to start the camp five years ago.

"Through my work I realize that it was an opportunity to expose students with disabilities to Stem field and try to encourage them not only the students but also parents," Leonessa said.

And it's through this tool kits called LEGO Mindstorms students will actively engage with the robots.

"What I was showing on the screen is how you program the Lego. Different kind of robots will use different kind of programming. But this is a drag and drop a kind of set up," Leonessa said.

The camp now in its fourth year was awarded $10,000 from the Student Engineers Council at Tech to provide support for students and their parents.