By JULIAN YERGER – On Wednesday, October 4, members of IHS Robotics Club and students from the Robotics I and II classes in the tech wing took a tour of Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics facilities.
Rather than an annual event, this trip is part of a new effort by the school to improve its STEM curriculum. Recognizing the importance, Mr. Kirsch, Mr. McElheny, and Ms. Eisenman attended the tour. While on CMU campus, the students and advisers of Robotics Club learned more about the robot the club had purchased last fall.
John Choi, a recent graduate of CMU’s robotics institute, has launched business selling educational robots to schools. Last year, IHS purchased the Megamark II and gave students a chance to work with it by starting CMU Robotics Club. Since it had been created after official club signups, only 11 students joined, but recently membership has climbed to 28 students for the 2017-2018 school year.
Choi gave students and administrators a tour of the Robotics Institute, Project Olympus, the Frank Ratchye Studio for Creative Inquiry, and the undergraduate robotics club. According to Choi, “Fostering creativity is the key to a successful robotics club.”
Since it was run by undergraduates, this club used the same technology as the IHS robot. Basic Arduino microcontrollers and three wire servos were combined with 3D printed plastic and fiberglass on a welded tube frame to make various rovers. Since the IHS tech wing already has most of the same equipment, it’s feasible for students to pursue similar projects. “My advice to anyone wanting to get started in robotics is to start small and build up,” an excited club member told students.
In the Frank Ratchye Studio for Creative Inquiry, students watched a presentation about helping robots learn to communicate with humans via body language. CMU professor Madeline Gannon reprogramed an assembly line welding robot with extra sensors so it could track humans around it. These robots can launch 300 kg of mass at 7 m/s, and since they can’t see their surroundings, humans have historically been kept far away for safety.
Returning from the trip, some students were excited to get started. IHS junior Sam Meil said, “It’s the tech of the future and there are so many opportunities with it.” All students in the club are required to submit a project proposal for performing a task with the robot. “I’m going to program the robot to navigate around an obstacle with rangefinder sensors,” said IHS sophomore Henry Powers.
Club members are encouraged to be creative with their project ideas, and IHS Junior Creed Wingerter wanted to “code the robot to give a powerpoint presentation.”
New software will be available for club member to use this year, and for the first time, students can program the robot with their Chromebooks via the Codebender website. With more information and far more students, CMU Robotics Club is ready to start the year.
[Photo by Julian Yerger]
Photo Caption: “Mr. Choi, the founder of Choitek, showed the undergraduate robotics lab to IHS students Edward Chandler, Sam Meil, Shayne Conner, Zachary Somerville, and Conner Montgomery.”