SUNY Canton Foundation Grant Lets Students Learn Latest Robotic Technologies

Lego ConstructionSUNY Canton students are building robots out of Lego-brand building blocks to monitor the College’s Nevaldine Technology Center.

Students work with Lego-Mindstorm NXT 2.0 kits to learn the latest in robotic technology and problem solving computer programming as part of their education in the College’s Canino School of Engineering Technology.

The 12 kits were purchased partially through a SUNY Canton College Foundation Campus Enhancement Award. Students use them as a resource to learn about programming interfaces and infrared sensors, according to Robert McClellan, an instructor in the alternative and renewable energy systems program.

“The Lego Mindstorm kits give the students a wonderful platform to develop a problem-solving machine designed to perform a specific task or series of tasks,” McClellan said. “This is hands-on learning at its finest, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Groups of three or four students constructed their own small automaton, which look similar to the robot “Number 5” from the 1986 movie Short Circuit. The finished machine is connected to a computer running software that allows students issue a specific set of commands to make their robotic room monitor. The process helps students learn logical decision-making skills.

Students working with Legos

SUNY Canton civil and environmental technology majors Alyssa M. Baker of Boonville, and Darran S. Raglin of Alexandria Bay construct and program a Lego Mindstorm robot as part of their MECH121 course.

“Lego Mindstorms are used by researchers and the military in the prototyping process,” said Joel M. “Miles” Canino, the grandson of the school of engineering technology namesake from Southington, Conn. “It really adds to the experiential learning opportunities available for students in the engineering technology programs.”

Canino and his fiancé, Natalie A. Kurgan of Rocky River, Ohio, transferred to the College in Fall 2011 to pursue their own research in the four-year mechanical engineering technology program. The couple has had previous experience with the robotic kits in their own prosthetic limb fabrication research. “It’s a challenging process to make the robots perform the complicated series of turns and analyze obstacles,” she said.

The Lego kits totaled more than $5,000 and were partially funded by the College Foundation following a grant proposal by Daniel J. Miller, an assistant professor in the mechanical engineering technology program. Matthew D. Bullwinkel, an associate professor in the program, redesigned the Mechatronics course (MECH128) to include the new technology.

The SUNY Canton College Foundation awarded approximately $20,000 in funding to unique or innovative programs through Campus Enhancement Awards this academic year. The program is funded through unrestricted donations to the Foundation. The specific goals of the program are to fund innovative or creative projects that will advance student-learning opportunities or advance the College’s overall mission.

In addition to the annual Campus Enhancement Awards, the College Foundation also funds student scholarships, professional development opportunities for faculty and staff, and unique learning and research fellowships.

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