"Halloween camp" #85

Because everyone loves Halloween, last year we organized a STEAM-Halloween camp for children between 8 and 12. Not only did we give them an introduction in robotics and programming, we also appealed to their story-telling skills. And because it was a Halloween-themed camp we challenged them to write a horror story that they would perform for their parents on the last day.

They decided to split the work and form three small groups that would each write one of the three main parts of a story: a beginning, a middle, and an end. And so by the end of the second day, they’d made up a remarkable story about twins that woke up during a camping trip and had to fight an army of zombies, a not-so-friendly mummy, and a horde of blubber monsters to make it back home safe.
However, with only two days left for costumes, decor, and rehearsals, they quickly ran into some logistical issues. They had made up a lot of characters, but there were only nine of them to play the parts. They brainstormed several solutions, but none that everyone could agree on, and after a little while some of the kids stopped participating. Especially those that preferred robotics over storytelling, gazed wistfully at the robots they’d been working with the first couple of days. Until one of them made the connection: who said that all the actors had to be human?

Once the click had been made, the kids started buzzing with excitement. Zombie army? Thymio robots! Blubber monsters? Blue-Bots! An automatic drawbridge? Mindstorms, of course! Everyone immediately got to work: one half armed with crêpe paper and glue guns to construct proper robot costumes, the other half with computers and lines of code. After some trial-and-error, the programs were finalized and the robot actors would take their cues as if they were made for it - which, of course, they were. Even the gravestones in the cemetery where the story took place, got an upgrade: thanks to the addition of micro:bits they lit up with scary red lights, and even played creepy music to set the mood!

The performance went off without a hitch, and the actors -humans and robots alike- got a standing ovation. It only goes to show that arts and robotics cannot only coexist, they can actually inform and strengthen each other. It’s a lesson these kids will definitely remember.