By Peter Vennerbeck
Robotics technology is steadily becoming more and more integrated into our culture each day. For this trend to continue, we will need new generations of programmers, engineers and designers. Cape Cod Community College’s (4Cs) Engineering Sciences and Applied Technology department intends to answer that call in force.
“Robots make a safer environment and open up jobs,” said 4Cs student Kyle Casano. “It’s like the future!”
Part of the appeal is that robots won’t be late to work, come into work impaired, or other human-related problems. Sure, the robots may break down on occasion, but that’s where people like Casano come in to fix them.
4Cs Professor Fredrick Bsharah hopes to get more students interested in S.T.E.M. (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) curriculum by starting an official robotics club here at 4Cs. Twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) Bsharah sets up a robotics and engineering lab in the Life Fitness Center on the far end of campus.
The lab gives students a place and opportunity to collaborate and use what they have learned in class to tackle new and exciting projects. One of those projects is learning how to program robots like Baxter and Sawyer. Baxter and Sawyer are collaborative robots made by Rethink Robotics.
According to Bsharah, Baxter and Sawyer are used to teach students and prepare them for what they will find in manufacturing and engineering in their careers. Both robots are extremely advanced and take very precise programing to work properly. The robots are equipped with sensors to keep the arms from hitting each other or people who may get in there way.
On January 11, Bsharah took three 4Cs students to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to participate in the Vex-u robotics competition. Typically, a team takes around six months to prepare for this kind of competition. According to Bsharah, his team only had two weeks. The 4C’s team used Vex robotic kits to enter the competition. Bsharah said that it was more of a learning experience for them.
“We didn’t know what would be in the water once we jumped [in],” said Bsharah. “But we jumped anyways and it was fun.”
The college continues to make advancements in this field. Bsharah hopes to have an official 4Cs robotic club up and running in February or March. The Engineering Sciences and Applied Technology department will be piloting a new robotics program in the fall.
All of the students in the robotics and engineering lab are excited for such a club, with some students even suggesting ideas like ‘Battle Bots’, a television show that pits robots against each other in a dangerous arena. With an official robotics club on campus, Bsharah definitely intends to participate more of the Vex-u competitions.
4Cs student Derrick Montique is hopeful the robotics club will soon come to fruition with more people and more funding. 4Cs recently received funds from the Massachusetts Skills Capital Grant. So far, 233 grants have been awarded, totaling in $64,376,404. Of that sum, approximately $310,000 was awarded to 4Cs, according to Bsharah. With this new grant money, 4Cs will only improve it programs and clubs.
On January 25, 4Cs hosted a smaller robotics competition in the Life Fitness Center. More than 35 high schools and middle schools were in attendance from all over Cape Cod and even off-cape. Bsharah was there, as well as Bridget Burger, the director of the S.T.E.M. Starter Academy.
Bsharah intends to continue helping this community advance and grow. Once the 4Cs robotic club is formed, they intend to host even more of such events as there community service project, a requirement for all clubs on campus. If the students have an interest in robotics engineering or programing, soon there will be an official robotics club right here on campus.