Video: Norwich’s Summer Academy
robots race toward the finish © Aug. 20, 2010, Norwich University Office of Communications

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Music: Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Video: Norwich Office of Communications
High school students attending the Summer Academy were challenged to build a robot capable of navigating a tricky obstacle course.

Members of Norwich University’s engineering faculty weren’t about to make things easy for Summer Academy participants—even if they were on campus to enjoy a summer camp experience.

Norwich’s Summer Academy, a weeklong experience for a few dozen high school students, is set up to create excitement for the fields of engineering and math in a hands-on fashion. Visitors, who came from all over the country, learned to make portable solar chargers for iPods; visited a mineral processing plant and cold weather research lab located near Norwich’s Northfield, Vt., campus; and did many typical summer-camp activities such as swimming, archery, rappelling and campfires.

But one activity, a contest to build the best robot from a kit, dominated the entire week. And it was no easy task.

To compete, a robot must carry its own bridge to a chasm, put it in place, cross the bridge, travel to an end point, turn around, recross the bridge, pick it back up and carry it to the beginning. The robots were controlled by a driver located in a different room, who was able to guide the automaton using only a camera placed on the machine and a few signals from teammates.

It was a tough assignment, but characteristic of the type of challenge that Norwich, the country’s oldest private military college and the birthplace of civil engineering studies, has built its reputation on.