Students learn to code robots at Northfield

Campers glimpsed into the world of modern manufacturing by learning the intricate and delicate relationship between robotics and coding during a special summer program this week.

Campers glimpsed into the world of modern manufacturing by learning the intricate and delicate relationship between robotics and coding during a special summer program this week.

Hosted by the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance at Columbia State’s Northfield campus, the students learned the functions of computer programming. Their goal was to direct a small robot through miniature courses indicated by electrical tape on the former factory’s floor.

First learning the process in a simplified computer simulation, the students quickly moved to writing actual code, which translated into physical movements for a small, four-wheeled machine.

Columbia State’s associate professor of computer science Alan Fisher led the students as they took their first steps into the world of programming and robotics.

“We are sponsoring this to get students excited about science, technology, math and engineering,” Fisher said with his sights set on the potential prosperity of each of the young campers in the room.

“In this central Tennessee area, there are over 1,000 information technology jobs,” he said. “If we can get students interested in these fields, they could actually get a good job.”

Fisher said students adapted well to the program, many of whom were very comfortable with technology but unaware of the inner workings of the devices they cherish.

“Yes, they know technology, but they have been users of that technology,” Fisher said.

Samuel Seadler, 14, of Spring Station Middle School and Kahlil Horton, 12, of Whitthorne Middle School were working on specific line of code to make the two-wheeled robot follow a square path.

“You can come up with millions of different ways for the robot to move,” Seadler said. “It’s something really interesting and more advanced than what I’m used to and that is what I like about it.”

Horton shared his fascination with the transition of code to physical movement.

“It just does it,” Horton said.

He added he would definitely consider a career in programming, after a successful career in the NBA, of course.

Columbia Academy student Tamiya Ellis, 13, was hard at work making the calculations to make sure the robot would successfully navigate a maze of electrical tape.

“I have a new appreciation for it,” Ellis said of coding.

She said she did expect to spend the camp doing so much math.

Paige Liggett, communications coordinator for the South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance, said the three-day camp was made possible through grant from the business development program, Launch Tennessee, and support from General Motors Spring Hill.