Home News Local News Students learn robotics, area culture in summer camp

Students learn robotics, area culture in summer camp

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Damian Cardona, left, prepares to catch his spherical robot as he directs it back to him using a laptop computer during a robotics class Tuesday at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. Amaya Nunez, right, prepares to test her program to make her robot move in a pattern with Heidi Weeaks, program specialist for Trio Educational Talent Search. Two dozen middle school students from Roswell and Dexter are participating in the ETS camp this week. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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Multiple, tiny spheres with blinking lights darted across the floor Tuesday morning in the Instructional Technology Center of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, controlled by about two dozen area middle school students.

The students, working in teams or by themselves, used laptop computers to program the spheres to move in patterns such as a square or a star, then used data collected by the robot to analyze such factors as its acceleration or speed.

The robotics class was part of a summer camp this week conducted by Trio Educational Talent Search, a federally funded program through ENMU-R that helps students in sixth through 12th grades from disadvantaged backgrounds. The goal of the program is to help students from low-income families or who are potential first-generation college students do well in school and get into a college program after they graduate, Director Daniel Herrera said.

Throughout the school year, ETS provides tutoring services, academic counseling and career exploration.

“When they get to be seniors, we assist them in doing whatever paperwork is necessary for them to go to college, which includes admission, financial aid, scholarship assistance and ACT registration to the school or college of their choice,” he said.

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The camp was smaller than usual due mostly to COVID restrictions. Herrera said he got the approval to have the camp in person rather than virtual just a week ago, and credited Program Specialists Heidi Franks and Paula Perez with contacting students and planning the camp in a short amount of time.

“Usually we plan this months in advance,” he said.

The summer camp is about more than learning technology, though. Students toured different departments on the ENMU-R campus Monday like nursing and aviation for career exploration. In the remainder of the week, the students will tour Carlsbad Caverns and do some horseback riding in Ruidoso. But even that has a purpose.

“I try to expose these students not only to the academic side of things, but also to cultural activities, open their eyes and plant a seed in them,” he said.

“Some of them might become interested in going into agriculture or being a veterinarian,” he said.

A high school camp is planned for July with campus visits to several universities and community colleges.

“We’ll probably go four days and do as many visits as we can,” Herrera said.

The program has been in Roswell for 30 years and is funded through federal grants on a five-year cycle, Herrera said. This year is the final cycle of the latest grant, he said, and he should know later this summer if it has been renewed.

ETS has about a 25% track record of its students going on to receive either a two-year or four-year post-secondary degree, he said. Most students stay in the area, but Herrera said some students have gone to schools such as the University of Notre Dame and George Washington University.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.