Students Learn through Robotics Thanks to Youth Technology Corps

The guest post below is courtesy of grantee Youth Technology Corps, which ran a robotics-centered summer program in summer 2021 with support from VELA Education Fund. Thanks to Summer Camp Co-Director Juan Zarco for his support with this post.

Youth Technology Corps sponsored its 2nd annual Free Summer Robotics camp with members of the community in Cicero, Evanston and neighboring Illinois cities, from June 28th through July 30th, 2021.

Thirty-three students from these cities participated in our summer camp. Our student population consisted of nineteen high school students, eight middle school students, and six elementary school students. Our teaching teams of eleven high school and college level student teachers were entirely alumni and current students from Morton East High School in Cicero, Morton West High School in Berwyn, and Evanston Township High School. As well as students from Morton College, whose stipends were funded by the institution.

Youth Technology Corps’ objective of this camp was to provide education in robotics to anyone who is interested, regardless of financial situation, as this was a free camp for all students involved. YTC believes that everyone should be able to explore their curiosity and learn new things regardless of financial situation, and we seek to provide access to those interested in robotics. This camp provided all students with a starter kit, which students used to learn hands-on basic electricity, microelectronics, code and assembly of parts. They then proceeded to learn how to use their kit to create robots and other machines. Four out of our five groups held sessions through webinars on Zoom, and the other held in-person sessions with a partner organization Corazón Community Services in Cicero IL.

Students from Corazón Community Services going through lessons from the YTC 2021 Summer Robotics Camp.

Caption: Students from Corazón Community Services are going through lessons from the YTC 2022 Summer Robotics Camp at an instructor’s home. These machines will be done in no time!

Half of our virtual groups met for an hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; while the other half met for an hour on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Each group met at the same time each day, excluding the first day of the camp where each group met at 12:00 PM on Monday, June 28th.

Of the thirty-three students to join our camp, twenty-six of them attended regularly throughout the five-week duration of the camp, and twenty-three of them completed the course. This gives the camp a 79% student retention rate, and a 70% completion rate. In addition to this, we will also be helping those who did not complete the course to help them earn a robot car, as many got close but came short due to missing a few days. We will be hosting weekly sessions on Tuesday evenings to help them build and use their robot cars.

Jorge Rios completed the 2021 YTC Summer Robotics Camp via Corazón Community Services and received his certificate of completion along with a robotic car kit.

Caption: Jorge Rios completed the 2021 YTC Summer Robotics Camp via Corazón Community Services and received his certificate of completion along with a robotic car kit.

In the last session of our camp, we administered a survey run by internationally recognized PEAR Institute to help us receive feedback on how we did during the camp. Twenty four of thirty-six students and student teachers filled out the survey. Our students scored significantly higher than national averages.

All of this would not have been possible if there were not individuals who believed in what we are doing with robotics and reaching new horizons. Parents, Teachers, students, community leaders, organizations, and most importantly, one of our most appreciated supporters, VELA Education Fund who gave us the gift of making this summer camp for a second year a reality by supporting us with 55% of our total costs and in a very timely manner. This helped us throughout the entirety of this community impact project from the preparations, the time of the summer camp, and even after the summer camp was over. We greatly appreciate the opportunity that was given to us!

Our camp managers including co-directors, instructors, and YTC’s President and Founder also reflected on YTC’s 2021 Summer Robotics Camp and wanted to express their gratitude:

“Great suggestions from previous student-instructors and people involved in the 2020 summer camp and the support of VELA, we were able to work on new methods to teach the camp, modify the already existing ones, and make an impact in helping students continue learning in diverse ways.” – Juan Zarco, co-director

“By working as a team of youth leaders and instructors, we developed a free robotics summer camp that immerses local youth in the world of robotics. I am very grateful for the support of VELA, who helped make this experience possible.” – Owen Daley, co-director

“I am proud of what we have accomplished over the past two years in our free summer robotics summer camp and how much we have improved over time, and part of this improvement came from the support of VELA. I am excited for the future of the camp as we look to expand the camp to a larger scale.” – Miles Daley, co-director

“With interest growing in technology and with VELA supporting YTC, I am sure the camp’s success will only grow. It was a great experience being able to teach and learn alongside my students. It was also great seeing parents being involved and were as excited as their children were learning robotics. At the end of the camp, my students had nothing but great feedback for us and hoped to learn more about robotics in the future.” – Elsie Salamanca, lead teacher

Learn more about Youth Technology Corps: Website