A happy camper. This little one seems to be enjoying putting together his robot. (GP)

Barbadian school children were recently exposed to the rudiments of robotics, thanks to the team behind the Computer Science and Robotics Camp.

The camp, which was held from July 8 to 12, was funded by a grant from the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, New York.  It catered to 45 children between ages six and 17 at the Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School.

Some of the campers would not have had the opportunity to be exposed to robotics, if it was not for the foresight of its Director Samiyrah Kellman.

Ms. Kellman is an American who has roots in Barbados, and is a pre-kindergarten and robotics teacher at the Horace Mann School. 

She said she was inspired to start the camp out of a sense of “giving back”, which was instilled in her by her Barbadian grandmother, who raised her in the United States.

“I started to teach robotics a couple of years ago at Horace Mann, and I went to our head of school about three years ago and I said I would love to do a robotics camp in Barbados. And, I got the Chair of the Computer Science and Robotics programme, Dana Screen, to come on board. She is the teacher of the advanced robotics class at the camp.  We started with two classes and two age groups last year, and we’ve now expanded to an advanced robotics class,” Ms. Kellman explained.

She added: “The children get two sessions of robotics a day; they also use engineering manipulatives. They have enrichment sessions; they have art. Last year, they had music and they have a game room. For the youngest kids, they are learning sequencing, counting and team building skills.  They also use iPad Apps in coding…  The goal of the camp in general is to encourage and inspire an interest in STEM.  We asked them on the last day of camp how many of them were interested in STEM careers and we got so many hands raised.”

Children of various age groups work on their robots and apps during the one-week camp. (GP)

Some of the children who participated in the camp this year were recruited through Variety – The Children’s Charity of Barbados Inc.  Ms. Kellman said she saw a need for a robotics camp because they were not enough of these camps operating in Barbados during the summer.

The camp director said her team, which includes Ms. Screen, Andrea Hollingsworth, who also has Bajan roots, and Alba Bryant, a Horace Mann graduate and member of the robotics team, were very passionate about teaching the children.

Ms. Kellman called for more sponsorship to expand the camp going forward.

“This is not a business; we don’t profit; we are all volunteering to do this.  The children right now accomplish a great deal in one week, but we would love if more local businesses would support our programme, and help us with funding because we would love to expand it to two or three weeks. We would love to have more campers.  I think bringing this new technology and exposing them it is going to inspire something very different in them.  I think it is needed and it is timely,” Ms. Kellman stressed.


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