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UHV robotics camp keeps high school STEM skills sharp

By Carolina Astrain
July 12, 2014 at 2:12 a.m.

Showing off her design skills, Vy Le, 15, of Palacios, posts images of her and Jessica Nguyen's robots to Facebook at the 2014 Digital Simulation and Robotics Summer Camp at the University of Houston-Victoria in the University Center Building.

The Lego robots moved around the maze, hitting the sides of the wooden walls before reaching the labyrinth's end.

High school students kept score on a University of Houston-Victoria white board, making note of the maze times.

"Robotics is seeing thoughts in action within an object," explained Alireza Tavakkoli, UHV director of digital gaming and simulation program and assistant professor of computer science.

This was the university's third year hosting the high school robotics camp, Tavakkoli said.

Tim Nguyen, 15, a sophomore at Palacios High School, said he heard about the camp from classmates who had participated in the past.

"This is my first time working with robotics," Tim said. "It took me a while to get the hang out of it, but it's been fun."

Matthew Bounds, 22, is a Houston native with a passion for gaming that has led him to the University of Houston-Victoria his sophomore year.

Bounds was at the Victoria campus assisting with a weeklong robotics camp for high school students this summer.

On the fourth day of the camp, which ran in the middle of June, Bounds was coaching students on how to build robots out of Legos and getting them through a handmade wooden maze set up in one of the university's computer labs.

Alcoa, the world's largest producer of aluminum, provides the camp with its funding, Tavakkoli said.

"They are the only sponsor," he said.

Tavakkoli said the camp is aimed at getting high school students excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.

In addition to the camp, the university also has an after-school robotics program and holds a math and computer science conference each year.

"These sort of programs help condition students for UIL (University Interscholastic League) competitions," Tavakkoli said. "They're open to everyone in our region."

Bounds watched as the last of the robots completed the maze.

"Life has been good here in Victoria," Bounds said. "I've made a lot of friends here."

Bounds was a student at the University of Houston's main campus when he decided to transfer to the Victoria campus to pursue video game programming and design. He chose UHV because of the affordability and the availability of face-to-face professors in Victoria.

"They have an instructor for all the classes here," Bounds said. "A lot of universities don't have that."



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