Robotic Arms, Electric Spiders, Greedy Algorithms
and the Maths of Optimisation

Senior STEM Camp for ages 8 to 17

30 May - 2 June 2023: Face to Face at Francis Holland School, Sloane Square

39 Graham Terrace, SW1W 8JF


Our Half Term camp will explore and explain how maths and programming can be harnessed to deliver the best answers to questions. Depending on each child’s previous experience and knowledge of maths and programming, answers will be discovered to questions such as:

  • what is Histogram Equalization in computing and how does it support image optimisation?

  • what is a greedy algorithm and what are its limitations?

  • what are arithmetic, geometric, harmonic and quadratic means?  

As ever, participants will be divided into small classes, based on their age and experience in maths and programming.

In Robotics and Electronics, children will work on different projects based on age groups.

The Spider project for pupils aged 7 to 11:

In this project, pupils will make a mechanical spider that has eight legs, a motor and a battery. During the lessons, pupils will learn several fundamental scientific topics including:

  • the conversion of energy from electromagnetic systems into mechanical movement

  • the conversion of one mechanical movement into another: the rotary movement of the a motor shaft into the stepping movement of the spider’s legs and how gears work

  • a specific topic will be a discussion about the functions of rotary movement with eccentric gearing and various joints

Pupils will also learn how to make a basic electrical circuit. Once each child’s spider is complete at the end of the week they will be ready to take home and show off what has been learned!

Robotic Arm and Claw - a 3 DOF Robot Project for pupils aged 11 and over

In this project pupils aged 11 and over will build and program a Robotic Arm and Claw. The project is a fully working programmable model of an industrial 3-DOF robot - a type widely used in the auto and other industries. ‘DOF’ means 'Degree of Freedom' as it relates to a robotic arm, that is, an independent joint that can provide freedom of movement for the manipulator, either in a rotational or translational sense. The ‘3’ refers to the robot arm having three joints to imitate the movement of a human upper arm.

For the model our campers will build, the arm has a gripper on the end, is mounted on a base station and is powered by multiple servo-motors. Two joysticks need to be fitted to the station to control the arm and the heart of the controller is based on an ESP8266 microchip. Pupils will build the mechanics of the robot, study the robotics development pipeline and learn how to program in the Arduino C programming language that makes the robot operate.

This is a take-home project and pupils can use it as part of their skills portfolio right up to university application level.

In Maths, here are more details of what will be studied in ‘Optimisation - achieving best outcomes’ by each Year group:

Year 3-4

In finding the best, pupils will discover the answer to: smallest or largest, shortest or longest route, how to collect the most prizes - all aspects of optimisation for beginners.

Optional 9am problem solving class: pupils will tackle questions from the UKMT Primary Maths Challenge and International Kangaroo.

Year 5-6

Finding the best, including the greedy algorithm and its limitations, chess and mathematics - maintaining social distancing on the board for chess pieces, calculating the largest area with a given parameter.

Optional 9am problem solving class, pupils will tackle games and logic in UKMT challenges.

Year 7-9

Finding the best, including the greedy algorithm and its limitations. Calculating the shortest routes and the largest areas with a given parameter.

Optional 9am problem solving class: we’ll be looking at problems in geometry: angles and similarities, the inequality of Arithmetic and Geometric Means for two numbers, its variations and applications, together with harmonic means.

Year 10-11

Finding the best, including the greedy algorithm and its limitations, shortest route, quadratic and cubic functions.

Optional 9am problem solving class: pupils will study the geometry and applications of Arithmetic, Geometric, Harmonic and Quadratic means and their relations, as well as inequality problems from past questions in the British Maths Olympiad.

In Programming, whether your child is already a confident coder or just starting out, we will create the most appropriate small study group for them, based on their age and experience.


Format and fees for the senior face to face camp:

  • pupil to teacher ratio of 6:1
  • participants are taught in small groups, tailored by similarity of age and ability, in individual classrooms
  • camp times: 10am to 3pm
  • or from 9am for an extra hour of problem solving and/or from 3pm to 4pm with our chess class. There is a supplement of £25 for each additional session booked
  • fees are £490 for four days. It is not possible to join for a shorter period

Places are limited, please register your interest HERE.