Robotics: A Highlight of the Region 6 Southern Area Fall Meeting
|November 10, 2012||Posted by COMauthor under COMSOC, EDCAS, Region 6||
The IEEE Region 6 Southern Area Fall meeting was held on the campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday, November 3, 2012. A highlight of the meeting was a demonstration by the Atascadero “Greyhound Revolutionary Robotics # 973” team, which was the first topic on the agenda.
While the IEEE representatives had their continental breakfasts, three Atascadero HS students gave a short presentation about their robot, named “ENCORE ”, and then fired it up to show its ability to shot “nerf” basketballs. This robot was constructed during a six week period at the beginning of the 2012 year, following the guidelines of the FIRST program, and then entered into the national competitions.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a not-for-profit 501 (C) (3) program, headquartered in Manchester, New Hampshire, that promotes science and mathematics via robotics for grades 9 to 12 throughout the world. To make it possible for HS level students to construct a robot to have some specified functionality in a six week period, FIRST collects considerable reference material, and posts it on the FIRST website for all students to view. For example, documents on NI LabVIEW and FRC and CompactRIO Controller are all collected. Now the HS student teams have to digest all this material, decide on their particular robot’s specifications, and just build it.
Three students and their mentor, Larry Price, showed off their work and put “ENCORE” through its paces. Many pneumatic systems, 17 motors for motion of the platform and basketball launch drive, and computer driver commands, programmed in Lua, to move and align “ENCORE” with the imaginary basket, were designed and integrated into ENCORE. A lively demonstration, with basketballs firing off the meeting room walls, showed its capability.
The most impressive part was the question that the team organizer and mentor, Larry Price, answered. (Mr Price is an ASME member, and a mechanical engineer at nearby Diablo Canyon NGS.) He has been organizing this local robotics team for 10 years, and has typically 10 students per team. His Return on Investment (ROI)? Over 80% of his students have gone on to careers in science and engineering. He mentioned a young women who was an Art student through her junior year in HS. Since she had a brother who was on the Robotics team, her interest in science was awakened, she joined for her senior year, and is now studying materials science at Cal Poly SLO.
This is a fact that the IEEE members, who are constantly hear public protestations from the media on STEM programs, coupled with large public funding proposals, need to consider. Just what grandiose programs, as to programs and approaches led by professional engineers , have effective ROIs? Who measures ROIs?
A final note: One of the Atascadero student Robotics team presenters was a son of our new Region 6 Director-Elect Tom Coughlin, who was in attendance. Our congratulations to the Coughlin family for their joint efforts today.