By Katie O’Donnell
Check out the video below to see the action from this year’s Robot Zoo at the Cambridge Science Festival.
Shop class has been taken to a new level.
At the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, engineering teacher Conrad Hauck worked with a team of high school students to build a robot for the FIRST Robotics competition. His students showed off their creation at the Robot Zoo in this year’s Cambridge Science Festival. The little bot flung Frisbees into a crowd of adoring children and curious adults.
Hauck said the demonstration was possible because of the dedication he and his school has to teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).“The team was being run out of MIT at the time,” Huack said. “I started volunteering with it and after a few years they said ‘Oh, you’re doing a really good job. Why don’t you take the team over?’ “
Creating a robot for the competition is no easy task. It’s not even an intermediate task. “It’s six weeks to build the robot, then six weeks of hell and hard work,” Hauck said. “You swear you’re not going to do it every year and then it comes around again and you just can’t wait to get involved.”
Team captain Taseen Rhman’s desire to solve problems is what keeps him coming back every year. “It’s just nice to see a problem and analyze… there’s a lot of pros and cons to weight out, and that to me is fun,” said Rhman.
The group of 15 has its dedicated core, like Rhman, Ian Mello, or the robot’s driver, Patrick Maltsev. However, Hauck says it’s not easy getting kids involved. “Not many people take it up,” Huack explained. “I could get more kids, but there aren’t that many kids who sign up for it.”
Despite the numbers, Hauck and his students said that the feedback and support from the community is overwhelming. “We get a lot of corporate sponsors, large companies in Cambridge,” said Huack. Some companies like Vecna Technologies, Inc. send mentors to help the kids with their designs or projects.
Hauck believes that more students would enjoy the program if they just gave it a chance.“I think if they see it and they get involved and we can get them to the competition, that they would see that this is cool.”
Today’s youths are pretty tech savvy, so convincing them that building a robot is cool shouldn’t be too hard, right? “I think kids are starting to think that it’s cooler… the interest is creeping up,” said Hauck.
Malstev was more hands-on with the children at the Robot Zoo. He felt showing the little kids the robot will help drive interest in engineering. “It was nice to be able to give the kids inspiration. So they’ll be like, ‘Oh when I get to Cambridge Rindge and Latin…’ they can continue that tradition of being on the team a achieving more goals,” said Maltsev.
The laughs and smiles faded as the day came to an end. But the tradition of learning, and making kids want to learn, goes on. As the Cambridge Ringe and Latin robotics team packed up the robot, it was clear that it was more than just a Frisbee throwing bot. It was a sign that STEM education is working and will prevail in the next generation.