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Motlow Conducts Summer Youth STEM Camps

July 13, 2022

Left to right: Motlow graduate Jordan Hammond, Motlow Instructor Donald Choate, STEM Camp Director Joyce Britton, Motlow Instructor Melissa Paz, GIVE Grant Coordinator Dr. Kaneal Alexander, Motlow student Zachary Clark, Warren County Middle School STEM teacher Stephanie Hobbs, and TN Valley Robotics and VEX IQ instructor Todd Zinkann.Motlow State partnered with TN Valley Robotics to provide summer STEM camps to 4th-12th grade students in middle Tennessee.

More than 75 students were selected by their respective districts to participate in one of four Motlow-sponsored camps. Current and former Motlow students, Motlow Mechatronics Instructor Melissa Paz, and former Warren County STEM teacher Joyce Britton were on hand to kick off the STEM camps in McMinnville.

“The camp did an amazing job of engaging the students,” said student volunteer Zachary Clark. “I was surprised how quickly they all caught on.”

“When a student smiles, laughs, and beams with excitement over something they have struggled to create; as an educator, that is what we strive to see,” said Paz.

The STEM camp gives the students more than just an understanding of robotics.  It gives them the ability to build a robotic system with a brain, motors, gears, wheels, and other building components. After the robot is built, the brain is programmed with a software language and linked through Bluetooth to a motion control device for directional control.  

“It challenges and builds cognitive skills; it makes them think!! They become engineers and want to experiment with different components to see what they can make them do faster or slower,” explained Paz. “It makes them work with teammates, which is key to success in their careers. Learning should be fun, and Vex robotics makes it fun. I loved watching the students succeed in their endeavors over the three days of camp.”

Seated left to right: Payton Smith, Kyle Smith, and Laike Cox; Standing left to right: Tage Moore, Takota Moore, Kolton Wood, Grady Collier, Jacori Scales, Cristian Morales, and Annelize Gribble.“Students began with simple instructions to make a car. Various labs introduced programming their creations to drive themselves,” explained Jordan Hammond, Motlow Mechatronics graduate, and current UT-Chattanooga Mechatronics student. “Participants were encouraged to think about how to improve their vehicles, how to provide feedback, and how to enhance their code. I am proud to have been a part of the event.”

TN Valley Robotics donated VEX IQ robots for the middle school students to build and program. VEX IQ is based on plastic, snap-together pieces designed to build highly functional robots. No prior knowledge is required.

“It is so exciting to watch their enthusiasm and ability to continue improving their robots better,” said Dr. Kaneal Alexander, GIVE Grant coordinator for Motlow. The events were made possible by GIVE grant funding to bolster mechatronics and robotics education in Motlow’s 11-county service area. “Ultimately, we hope the students continue to build on their interest in mechatronics and robotics, and maybe even come to Motlow to get their education.”

The first camp occurred June 28-30 at Warren County Middle School in McMinnville. In July, two camps will take place simultaneously in Fayetteville—one for middle school robotics and another for high school students to learn Python coding, taught by Motlow instructor Donald Choate. The final camp will take place July 26-28 at the Thurman Francis Arts Academy in Rutherford County.

Tennessee’s Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient, and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. The system offers associate degree and certificate programs, workforce development programs, and transfer pathways to four-year degrees. For more information, please visit us online at or visit Motlow at

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