|By G. Michael Dobbs
High School of Science and Technology students Richard Dupont and Prakash Pathak work on building their Mindstorm robots during a class at Western New England University.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD : In a lab at Western New England University (WNE) on April 5, a group of students from Springfield's High School of Science and Technology were tackling a challenge that might help them discover an interest in engineering.
Under the direction of two WNE engineering majors, Jesus Rodriguez and Albert Cortina, the eight high school students were each assembling a LEGO Mindstorm robot. Rodriguez explained to Reminder Publications the robots, which had been used in WNE electrical engineering courses, were a basic design that were programmable and could be varied many ways.
Rodriguez said the construction should take about 20 minutes.
Daniel Radin, the teacher from the high school, said, "This is the first taste [of robotics for the students]. Most of them are interested in this kind of engineering and some just wanted to check out the college," he added.
Each student sat at a computer on which step-by-step assembly instructions were displayed. The students quietly went about finding the part they needed and beginning the assembly process. Rodriguez and Cortina were going from student to student answering questions.
Radin said he was "really excited" about the exercise as WNE has donated 25 Mindstorm kits to the high school. Radin said having the kits would "fit in nicely" into his curriculum. He said there has been a robotics team at the high school for the past four years and said he is working on other engineering projects with WNE.
David Stawasz, assistant vice president for Marketing Communications for the university, said there had been previous collaborations between the high school and university, but this class was a first for both institutions.
Stawasz explained the donation of the Mindstorm robots was due to a change in the teaching materials used in the electrical engineering program.
Dr. Neera Magotra, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the university, said that Cortina and Rodriguez designed the class for the high school students themselves as part of the requirements of their major.
He added the exercise is to build confidence in the high school students' abilities to build something such as the robot.
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