SciFest field trip

I recently had the opportunity to tag along with a busload of primary school students for a three-day trip to attend SciFest in Joensuu. The students, who were from Koulumestari and Vanttila schools, were attending the festival to compete in the RoboCup Junior Finnish Nationals.

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SciFest is a yearly festival that features activities and workshops for students and teachers. This year the festival celebrated the UNESCO International Year of Light. While this made for some interesting activities and displays, it also meant that the building was too dimly lit for easy photo taking! The festival included many booths with activities on topics such as computer programming, 3D printing, color mixing, light bulbs, lenses, colorblindness, and environmental issues. Many of the booths were run by students, ranging from university graduate students to those in middle school.

Making a light bulb
Making a light bulb

The RoboCup event included five different types of competitions. Some were more traditional events such as Soccer and Sumo Wrestling. Two others highlighted students’ creativity. One was the Freestyle competition in which students had to design a robot to achieve some type of useful task. My three favorites are shown below.

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Robot art for sale!
To play this game, you deposit a coin in the machine and then stop a moving lever at the right instant to win a bag of liqorice.
To play this game, you deposit a coin in the machine and then stop a moving lever at the right instant to win a bag of liqorice.
This machine feeds your pet lizard automatically if you're out of town.
This machine automatically feeds your pet lizard if you’re out of town.

The girls I was camping out with came to compete in the Dance/Theater event for which they designed a dance and programmed a robot to dance along. Despite some last-minute programming glitches, they pulled everything together and won third place.

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While attending the festival was the purpose of the trip, it was only part of the fun for the students. We traveled six hours by bus and camped out in a local school with more than 200 students from all over Finland. The boys all slept in the gym, and the girls stayed in classrooms. In the evening, the students had the run of the building. They played in the gym or in the hallways of the school that featured a giant chess set, pool and ping-pong tables, and video games. Breakfast and dinner were eaten in the school cafeteria. This way of traveling makes so much sense, yet I’ve never heard of students doing this in the US. Fun times!

A reindeer stood guard in the hallway.
A reindeer stood guard in the hallway.
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My accommodations!

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