Wednesday, February 22, 2012

UIS computer scientists help high-schoolers build robot

Three students and an instructor from the University of Illinois Springfield Computer Science Department are helping high school students build a robot as part of a national challenge.

The FIRST Robotics Challenge is designed to teach students about teamwork and "real-world engineering." The teams are under strict rules and have limited time and resources. Robots are built in six weeks from a common kit of parts and typically weigh up to 120 lbs.

“I never got to do something like this (in high school), but I wish I did,” said Brian Rodgers, a senior UIS computer science major. “I think they’re pretty lucky. I’m lucky to be able to do this too.”

The students are building a basketball-shooting robot for the “rebound rumble” competition. The Springfield robot will compete with two other robots on a team. The team that scores the most points wins the competition.

“We’ve seen it shoot at five feet, we’ve almost seen it get to ten feet away. It can climb bridges. We’ve seen it pick up balls on it’s own,” said Lance Caughey, a senior at Springfield High School.

UIS mentors have been helping students solder wires, explain programming methods and mount pieces of the robot as part of an advanced robotics class.

“This has been a labor of love,” said Lucinda Caughey, a UIS computer science instructor and organizer. “It is six weeks of intensive engineering and trial and error and frustration and accomplishment.”

Sacred Heart-Griffin (SHG) High School senior Matthew Yochim plans to pursue a career in engineering. He’s had a lot of fun working to build the robot and now is ready to show it off to the world.

“The more you put into the project, the more you get out of it,” said Yochim. “If you’re there everyday working on it and you finally get to roll it around and test it, throw some baskets with it. It’s amazing.”

The FIRST Robotics Challenge involves 2,300+ teams nationwide with over 58,000 high school students taking part. Students in grades 9-12 are eligible to participate in the competition. The winners will advance to the World Championship and could qualify for nearly $14.7 million in college scholarships.

The high school students receive technical guidance through a collaborative effort amongst UIS; team leader Dr. Adrian Lee of Central Illinois Technology and Education Research Institute and volunteer robotics instructor at the University of Illinois Extension; William Cragoe, mathematics and engineering instructor at SHG; and John Richardson Jr. of Richardson Manufacturing Company.

Locally, the team is sponsored by the U of I 4-H extension office, Richardson Manufacturing, UIS, and JC Penny. National sponsors include NASA, Boeing, General Motors, and Rockwell Automation.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

UIS wins "School of the Year" award at residence life conference

The University of Illinois Springfield Office of Housing and Residential Life was recently honored with the “School of the Year” award from the Illinois State Resident Assistant Association (ISRAA). The award was presented during the group’s annual conference.

“We stood out,” said Chad Eversgerd, resident director for UIS West Campus Townhouses. “We went and presented several programs, demonstrated school spirit, possessed great citizenship, helped other schools, and supported others in our institution.”

The conference, held at Millikin University in Decatur, brought resident assistants (RAs) from around the state together and gave them the opportunity to connect and expand their knowledge base. Students spent the weekend learning about leadership, personal development and programs they could take back to their residence halls, townhouses and apartments.

In addition to the “School of the Year” award, UIS was also honored with the “Most Spirited School” award, voted on by the delegations that attended, due to the enthusiasm and school spirit. Students also received the philanthropy award for holding a clothing drive, which supported the Red Cross.

Larry Perse and Ryan Chipman, both student RAs in Lincoln Residence Hall, received a top 10 program award for their “True Blood” presentation. “True Blood” was designed by the two as a community builder program to teach leadership while understanding the diversification of character in a group.

“The students worked really hard and have brought back a reason not only for housing, but for the University to be excited,” said Eversgerd.

UIS RAs who attended the conference included Lyssa Barth, Ryan Chipman, Larry Perse, Sarah Snowden, Chelsea Still, Michael Markwell, Marcus McNeal, Jessica Flynn, Reema Kansara, Andrew Nicol, Mindy Ruckman, and Shonda White. Advisers Chad Eversgerd and Zach Berillo also attended.

About 20 other institutions from around Illinois participated in the ISRAA conference.