On a sunny Friday morning at the Robotics Vehicle Range, 14 local students were in competition mode, huddled around 3D printers they built, and laptops running 3D modeling software programs. They were divided into teams the day before and challenged to print original 3D designs before 3 p.m. that day.
The competition was part of a second annual week-long robotics camp from May 27-31, hosted by Sandia in collaboration with R4 Creating, a nonprofit organization that provides robotics and STEM opportunities for kids.
Sandia graduate student intern John Krukar taught camp participants how to build the 3D printers at the beginning of the week. He provided 3D model files they could use right away to print Nintendo characters Bulbasaur and Mario, steamboats and lizards, then he helped them design original figurines using free open-source programs. John also used a 3D depth camera to capture the teenagers so they could print action figures of themselves.
Shelly Gruenig of R4 Creating said one goal of the camp was to help kids figure out what they want to be when they grow up. Throughout the week, Sandia employees who work in a variety of positions spoke to the group about their careers. Gruenig said she also wants to give kids opportunities to try new things and work with others.
The winning team designed and printed WALL-E and Eve figurines based on the Disney Pixar movie. For some of the kids, it was their first time working with the design programs, and the camp gave all participants a chance to collaborate and make connections with other students. Some students said they hope to continue studying STEM fields and possibly work at the Labs someday.
“If half of these kids ended up being future Sandians, how awesome is that, right?” Gruenig said. “They heard some amazing stories from people throughout the week of how they started as an intern, how they thought they were going to be an artist, and the next thing they know they’re working on photons.”