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Girard robotics team hosts youth camp

Staff photo / Bob Coupland Howland resident Basam Aleker, 12, left, and Salsabeel Al-Karain, 13, of Liberty, work on a robot at the Girard FIRST Robotics camp at the Arab American Community Center in Liberty. The camp was for grades 6 to 8, with one for students in grades 9 to 12 this weekend.

LIBERTY — They couldn’t have the usual competition season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the Girard High School Robocats FIRST Robotics team has found other ways to take part in events, such as weekend robotics camps for area children.

The first camp for students in sixth to eighth grades from Mahoning and Trumbull counties was last weekend at the Arab American Community Center and will continue this weekend for students in ninth to 12th grades.

Ashraf Hadi, the camp director and a robotics team adviser at Girard High School, said the two-day, four-hour-per-day camp allows children to learn how to make robots and program them. Hadi said the Girard robotics team members helped.

The Arab American Community Center provided a location for the camp.

“I have been coming here since I was a little kid, and having this location for the camp is perfect. We can provide them an experience with robots,” he said.

Hadi said some younger students did not even realize their schools offered robotics programs, including Austintown.

He said one day was spent learning to build a robot and the next was spent on programming.

Salsabeel Al-Karain, 13, of Liberty, said Liberty High School has a robotics class and she has taken part in the program there but wanted to try the camp as well.

Layla Ali, 10, of Canfield, said she learned to make the robot move without a remote control. She said her mother told her about the camp and she wanted to attend to try something new.

Ali, a Canfield Middle School student, said the school has had a robotics program in the past.

Liana Ilain, 13, of Canfield, said she, too, learned to build a robot and program it.

“I heard about the camp and heard Layla was going to be part — and I wanted to be here, too,” she said.

Girard FIRST Robotics team members were glad to have the opportunity to be part of some robotics event.

Jayen Moran, a Girard junior, said: “I like the idea of everyone working together on robots. We are able to share our love of robots with them. Some of them have never done anything like this before. This camp is introducing them to something new.”

Alex Lundborg, a sophomore at Girard, said she liked how the students asked questions of them and sought suggestions and advice.

“They asked us what they did wrong, or does this go here,” Lundborg said.

She said some schools do not have robotics, so the camp introduced the field to some of them for the first time.

“Being able to share this with them is great,” she said.

Hadi said the coronavirus pandemic has hurt the team, with fewer students involved this year.

Most of the in-person competitions for the 2019-2020 season were canceled and became virtual challenges, including the team designing a game for the robot.

Hadi said the Girard team took first place in the game-design challenge that season.

He said the team was able to use the same robot from 2019-20 for the 2020-21 season.

“We could set up an obstacle course at school or at home for the students to have their robot take part in challenges. We modified the robot a little bit to make it more efficient. The competitions were timed runs. There were programmed tasks and student-driven tasks to have the robot take part in,” Hadi said.

The team finished third in its division in the 2020-21 season, missing advancing by one point.

Hadi said it has been good for the team to be able to take part in some form of competitions, even if online.

He said as far as he knows the 2021-22 season will be held in person.

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