Mississippi Valley State University’s Department of Engineering Technology has entered into collaboration with Virginia Tech and the Sunflower County Consolidated School District (SCCSD) in a partially funded National Science Foundation (1511792) robotics collaborative titled “Actualizing STEM Potential in the Mississippi Delta.”
The program is an adapted version of a robotics collaborative program co-developed by the lead investigator, Dr. Brenda R. Brand, associate professor in science education at Virginia Tech. Dr. Brand, a native of Shaw, Miss. has fought hard for several years to secure funding to expand this program to her Mississippi home. The Virginia model program has been highly successful and is now entering its 16th year.
She is excited to see the yearlong, after school robotics program off to a great start at Gentry High School in Indianola, Miss. At the high school, the facilitative team consists of John Cochran, math instructor; James Jimison, metal trades instructor; Ralph Smith, computer and technology consultant; and Kenya Horn, administrative supervisor.
High school students from Gentry and Ruleville High Schools will design, construct, and operate a complex robot that must perform specific tasks. These students will be assisted by ten college mentors from the Departments of Engineering Technology and Mathematics, Computer and Information Sciences at MVSU. Students are under the supervision of Dr. Qiang He, Lemorris Strong, and Dr. Dan Trent. Strong and Dr. Trent, as well as Cochran, Jimison and Horn spent time on the campus of Virginia Tech last summer in preparation for the program building and programing robots and getting an overview of the Virginia program.
The centerpiece of the program is participation in a national robotics competition called FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FIRST teams from across the United States and abroad compete at various sites across the world to solve a common problem utilizing only materials specified by FIRST.
Robots must weigh no more than 120 pounds, must meet certain size restrictions, and perform various tasks outlined within each year’s challenge. Students are free to design the robot in in any manner that solves the problem. Students will design, strategize, plan, troubleshoot, re-design, build, and operate the robot. All of the design and construction takes place in a six week time frame.
The challenge for this year’s robotics competition will be announced on Saturday, January 9, 2016. The event will be hosted by the MVSU Department of Engineering Technology and will begin at 9:00 a.m. in the auditorium of the Science and Technology Center on the MVSU campus. All of the FIRST teams across the United States and abroad will be tuning in at this time to learn the details of this year’s competition.
A FIRST robotics team consists of high school students, college mentors, high school and university faculty, parents, grandparents, family members, local businesses, and the community. “A great team embraces involvement by many individuals,” said Brand. “More people bring more ideas and will help to build a more robust robot. The community is invited to attend this kickoff event and to become involved. This is our first year of competition and we expect it to be a blast!”