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STEM breeds interdisciplinary robot competition at Sylvania Campus

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It wasn’t a typical soccer match, nor were the teams or players well known, but the competition generated an unusually spirited audience of faculty, staff and students at the Sylvania Campus last fall.

A large crowd gathers to witness Sylvania’s first remotely-controlled robot soccer tournament.

A large crowd gathers to witness Sylvania’s first remotely-controlled robot soccer tournament.

Late last month, the Sylvania Campus hosted its first remotely-controlled robotic soccer challenge, which showcased a high level of team spirit because “it celebrated the collective, interdisciplinary effort of faculty, staff and students – along with support from outside PCC,” said Charmagne Ehrenhaus, dean of Sylvania’s Business, Computer Technologies and Real Estate division.

The “World Cup” of robot soccer highlighted collaboration among three Sylvania-based departments: Computer Science, Engineering, and Machine Manufacturing Technology. A month prior to the competition, students and faculty teamed up to participate in a non-credit, “build-a-bot” workshop that enabled students to build and program remotely-controlled robots that would compete in the culminating soccer championship.

Google Nexus 7 tablets served as the “heads” of the soccer competitors; since their bottom halves were fused, robots dribbled the soccer ball with their “arms,” or in their case, paddles. Game day uniforms – variations of University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and a referee outfit – were custom-designed by a PCC engineering student who had a bachelor’s degree in art.

“The month-long experience leading up to the soccer match emphasizes cross-technical learning in what we hope is a fun and engaging environment for students,” said Gregg Meyer, instructor of civil and mechanical engineering and the lead organizer of the workshop. “We hope they’ll want to learn more, that perhaps the experience will open their eyes to STEM disciplines, in terms of majors and possibly, careers.”

The remotely-controlled robot soccer players are directed by students and faculty at the computer table on the sidelines. Those commanding the robots’ moves can be seen in the tablets – the “heads” of the players.

The remotely-controlled robot soccer players are directed by students and faculty at the computer table on the sidelines. Those commanding the robots’ moves can be seen in the tablets – the “heads” of the players.

STEM is an acronym for fields of study in the categories of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There is a movement at PCC, and throughout Oregon, to bolster the number of students in these disciplines and prepare them for opportunities in high-tech fields.

The idea for Sylvania’s workshop and soccer tournament sprang from a national conference for community colleges oriented toward STEM that Ehrenhaus and Dieterich Steinmetz, dean of Sylvania’s Science and Engineering division, attended in October 2011.

Over a period of three consecutive Fridays, students were taught how to build robots based on themed lessons that offered engineering-focused learning, a fabrication day, and a computer programming-specific lesson.

The first class session highlighted engineering concepts and included a rocket club guest speaker from Portland State University, followed by a demonstration hosted by the Tactical Robot team of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Students accessed Sylvania’s machine shop during the second class and learned how to build robots using new rapid prototyping equipment and conventional shop technology. The how-to’s of computer programming made up the third class prior to the soccer competition.

“We witnessed excitement from the students as they connected the dots between the three disciplines over the course of the workshop,” said Dan Findley, division dean of Math and Industrial Technology. “They began to understand how each field is connected to the other.”

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Comments

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x by David Annan 7 years ago

I like this type of stuff and would like to be informed when it’s being set up for next time, not just told how it went.
Thank You.
David Annan

x by Stephanie 7 years ago

I agree with David. I’ve been looking for an activity like this all last term but never heard about this. There is hardly enough activities for the
Engineering students as it is already. STEM needs to make more noise about events like this before and after it happens.

x by daniel watkins 7 years ago

+2 I am an engineering student too and modded Roombas are cool

x by daniel watkins 7 years ago

But to be fair, it looks like there was a previous article on this but still if the pictures above are from November 16th then even then we wouldn’t have known in time to check it out
http://news.pcc.edu/2012/11/robots-to-storm-sylvania-on-friday-nov-16/

x by tony dewitt 7 years ago

maybe its my fault but i dont recall hearing anything about this when it was happening and i am supposedly on the STEM mailing list and havent (ifheard anything since the round table discussion on careers back in October

x by tony dewitt 7 years ago

So far im pretty disappointed in the whole STEM program as it seems to be non existant