What’s next? We already have Megatron, R2-D2, Optimus Prime and Rosie.
On back-to-back days at Western Nevada College, students immersed in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education showed what they could do when their minds were stimulated through technology and robotics.
FIRST TECH CHALLENGE MEET
WNC hosted a FIRST Tech Challenge league meet on Wednesday, Dec. 14, providing middle school and high school students from the area with a venue to compete with robots that they built as a team. The students designed, created, programmed and operated the robots for a head-to-head challenge against other teams from Northern Nevada.
For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology has been inspiring teens and preteens since 1992 and now has expanded into providing local, regional and national tournaments emphasizing robotics, technology and LEGOs. FIRST takes pride in students building their STEM skills while fostering confidence, teamwork, speaking and networking to cultivate science and teaching leaders of the future.
Private and school-based teams from Northern Nevada participated in the FIRST Tech Challenge league meet. Made up of Carson High School and Eagle Valley Middle School students, Carson City’s two teams battled teams from Reno and Virginia City. The Coral Academy Motor Breakers won the competition, while the Carson City teams, Team Captain and Team Kaptain, finished second and third, respectively. The Boys & Girls Club of America Codebusters placed fourth and the Sonic Screwdrivers from Virginia City came in fifth.
Four years ago, Carson City FIRST team coach Scot Duncan became involved with FIRST when his daughter and her friends started a FIRST LEGO League team as fifth-graders. Their interest and expertise took them to different championships around the country. Those memorable experiences with FIRST encouraged them to transition to the FIRST Tech Challenge program thriving in Carson City.
“One thing I think makes (the FIRST programs) special is the emphasis on real-world simulation and application,” Duncan said. “Many STEM programs focus just on the technical aspects of a challenge. FIRST has created a program that forces the kids to act like real engineers: time management, project management, financial planning, community outreach and public speaking. Beyond the skills required to create a working robot, these are some of the many (soft) skills FIRST has integrated into the program.”
WNC’s Career and Technical Education Department facilitates the students’ preparation for FIRST events. The Carson City teams spend two nights a week in the college’s Applied Industrial Technology labs designing, building and coding their robots.
Duncan said WNC has become an ideal place for the Carson City teams to work out the kinks in their robots and practice for tournaments.
“The support of Emily and WNC has been invaluable,” Duncan said. “One of the difficulties in moving up through the various FIRST robotics programs is that they required an increasing amount of space. Even at a high school, it can be hard to find the right room and work environment. The facilities at WNC are perfect.”
WNC ROBOT OLYMPICS
On Thursday, Dec. 15, Jump Start College students from WNC professor Emily Howarth’s Advanced Manufacturing classes presented a Robot Olympics.
“This is an end-of-semester project demonstrating coding and building of small robots, and presentation skills for students studying advanced manufacturing,” Howarth said. “This class and lab work has reinforced for students the importance of initiative and drive on the job, showing them that they can learn and do a variety of technical work tasks.”
The students, who represent Carson and Dayton high schools, celebrated their semester of learning and work with a series of Olympic-type games. A few of the robots played songs as the students participated in three events and determined medalists.
The robots used light sensors to navigate a maze as quickly as possible. “The students dubbed it KukAmazing in honor of our industrial robot partners, KUKA Robotics,” Howarth said.
With winter almost here, a curling event seemed appropriate. Robots independently pushed a ball toward a scoring ring.
Of course, the Olympics wasn’t complete without a relay race. The students’ robots utilized sensors in a tag-team format covering a short distance.
Team USA took home gold in two of the three events, and students interacted with guests, answering their questions about the significance and importance of their projects.
“The Parallax Boe-Bot (Board of Education robot) is a simple platform that allows me to introduce basic concepts of electronic components and circuits, the mechanics of motors and gears, and control from sensors, all while using the tool of computer programming to direct the behaviors of all of those systems,” Howarth said.
WNC’s commitment to educating students to work in the region’s expanding manufacturing and technology sectors has spawned a Manufacturing Technician Certification program. Individuals can take three classes (online and in-class options) in one semester to become certified to work in an above entry-level-position in Advanced Manufacturing. For more information about Manufacturing Technician training, contact Howarth at Emily.firstname.lastname@example.org or at 775-445-3000.
Students and families who are interested in WNC’s CTE Jump Start College for high school students should talk with their local high school or WNC’s CTE division.