Area students to get funding and support to build robots

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Area high school students will get the chance to test their engineering and problem-solving skills with a new extracurricular activity this fall.

The WIRED Initiative of the Workforce Investment Board of Southeast Missouri and Southeast Missouri State University are teaming up to help area high schools form competitive robot building teams.

The initiative will give up to $1,500 in funding per school and Southeast will provide technical support throughout the process.

Janet Witter, manager of the WIRED Initiative, said she hopes to get participation from 10 to 15 schools throughout the region. Schools will form teams of four to 10 students who will build a robot. They will compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge, a robotics competition for high school students in St. Louis in December.

Teams will have about two months to construct and program the robot, she said.

"They have to work as a team on deadlines," Witter said. "A lot of good workplace kind of skills go into it."

The WIRED Initiative will buy robot starter kits, which cost about $1,000, and cover entrance fees, she said. Southeast instructors will train mentors to guide students through the construction and programming of a robot.

John Dudley, an instructor in the College of Industrial and Engineering Technology, said he hopes local industries will participate in the program. Representatives from industrial businesses can work with the teams during the project, he said.

"It means better employees for them down the road," he said.

By mid September, the teams will receive guidelines for the competition outlining what tasks the robot should accomplish. From there, students put their mechanical, computer and electrical engineering skills to the test.

The robots illustrate the interesting aspects of science and technology, Dudley said.

"It's not all formulas and algorithms," he said.

There will be two information sessions from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 11 and 13 for school and industry representatives. The sessions will be held at Missouri centers in Cape Girardeau, Portageville, Poplar Bluff and Park Hills through a teleconference.

Attendees should register by Friday with Witter at 334-0990 or Dudley at 576-2741.


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