A week of ‘X-TREME Machines’

Derik Vanderford|The Union Daily Times Union County 4-H X-TREME Machines day camp participants Hannah Towe, John Hunter Martin, Christian Crank, Ian Rochester, Jake Tucker, Ross Arthur, Ashtyn Song and Nathan Towe pose with hexicopters and controls. (Not pictured Blake Vinson)

Derik Vanderford|The Union Daily Times Christian Crank operates a robot as Jeff Fellers and Hannah Towe look on.

Derik Vanderford|The Union Daily Times “Team Oreo” members (left to right) Jake Tucker, Ross Arthur, Ian Rochester, Blake Vinson and Hannah Towe race to complete a task with a machine. Instructor Leigh Anne Arthur (far left) looks on.

Derik Vanderford|The Union Daily Times Instructor Leigh Anne Arthur helps Ian Rochester try out one of the machine prototypes.

UNION — The Union County 4-H program’s newest day camp edition teaches children about mechatronics.

With the importance of robots and mechatronics in today’s industries, this week’s Union County 4-H X-TREME Machines day camp for ages 9 and up offers hands-on activities to teach children about building and designing robots and simple machines.

The camp is led by Leigh Anne Arthur, Mechatronics teacher at Union County Career and Technology Education (CATE) Center. Also assisting with the day camp are Jeff Fellers from the Clemson Extension office and Grayson Fallaw, a Mechatronics student of Arthur’s who volunteered to help with the camp.

“We started with what Mechatronics is and what simple machines are,” Arthur said.

From there, Arthur explained aspects of mechatronics — including hydraulics, basic electronics, basic control of machines and the function of sensors — by using hands-on projects and activities.

“We’ve also covered coding and programming a little bit,” Arthur said. “They know there’s more to it than parts and pieces put together. They know they have to communicate with them.”

On Wednesday, students operated remote-controlled hexicopters outside and completed robotics challenges in groups. They used prototypes built by Mechatronics students at the Union County CATE Center.

Students used teamwork to complete simple tasks with their robots and find ways to shorten the amount of time in which they completed them. The children discussed strategies during the challenges, and they cheered and congratulated each other when they finished.

Arthur asked them what they learned from the projects and several of them said they were able to become handier with the controls as they worked and learned how fast the robots moved and how much movable objects bounced, allowing them to adjust the distance of movements.

Arthur said participants seemed to really enjoy the camp, and although they don’t assign projects, some participants went home and designed their own projects, such as a cotton-ball catapult made out of popsicle sticks.

Today, they are scheduled to build their own table-top “crab robots.”