Kids create robots at summer camp

SAN BENITO — More than 20 5-year-olds chatter excitedly, raising their hands while they wait for assistance.

Tiny cheers are heard to celebrate the success of a student who has properly attached a motor to the head of a toothbrush, creating a small robot with googly eyes and colorful pipe cleaners for legs.

More than 100 gifted and talented students from kindergarten to eighth grade in San Benito are attending the week-long summer camp aimed at teaching students about technology, engineering, art and health.

Each day they tackle a different topic with a lesson plan and hands-on activity.

Monday was engineering.

On one side of the classroom, first grader Brandon Harper worked on creating a Bristle Bot.

It was the day’s lesson and students from kinder to third grade were learning how to build a tiny robot using a battery, small motor and the head of a toothbrush.

“If I can get it, I’m going to try to put soap and let it clean my floor,” Brandon said.

Engaging Communities for College Readiness, or ENCORE, is a program developed by the Texas Valley Communities Foundation to increase the number of students ready to enroll and complete post-secondary education.

Dann Garcia, program innovator and development officer, said the program began in 2008 with summer camps in Edinburg and eventually spread throughout the Valley.

While the organization mostly focuses on parental involvement and training to help their students enroll in college, summer camps for the young students are popular.

“Every year we re-evaluate the program and activities and we like to change it to keep it fresh and updated with new technology,” Garcia said.

Tatiana Quesada, an incoming seventh grader, worked with her team to build a rocket they would later launch.

“I’m really excited to see what more experiments we’re doing,” Tatiana said.

She said the program has opened up her eyes to the world of engineering, leading her to think of a possible future in civil engineering.