Engineering 3 refocused on team-built robot

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Amira Carter

Engineering is going to be focused primarily on the robot.

Although BSM’s Engineering class is already one of the most unique and popular in the school, the class’s teachers still work to improve the course every year to ensure the best experience possible for the students taking it.

Each year, adjustments are made to the course based on past experiences. This year, the third year of BSM’s Engineering program has undergone several major changes, including rescheduling work and adding several new projects.

After receiving feedback from last year’s seniors, BSM’s Engineering teachers have changed the curriculum for the class’s third year in order to allow students more time to work on their team-built robot. “[Engineering is] a 3-year, pre-engineering program to prepare students for a career in engineering and to instill an engineering mindset, even if students decide not to go into engineering,” Kirsten Hoogenakker, one of the engineering teachers, said.

[Engineering is] a 3-year, pre-engineering program to prepare students for a career in engineering and to instill an engineering mindset, even if students decide not to go into engineering.”

— Kirsten Hoogenakker

Engineering class is available to sophomores and can continue through junior and senior year. The course starts with the basics; first year students build basic LEGO structures, and eventually simple robots. During their second year, students learn how to design parts with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, and laser cut or 3D-print them to use in the more complex robots they will be designing.

For senior engineering students, the  main focus is building and programming a robot to compete in the RoboCup Rescue Division for the following summer. Last year’s students competed in Nagoya, Japan at the end of July. This year the competition will take place in Montreal, Canada around the middle of June. For the competition, the robot built in Engineering 3 must be capable of traversing rough terrain in conditions that would be dangerous to humans, and be able to move and manipulate debris to clear a path. It will also be able to track its own position and map its route through a building.

Last year, the students in Engineering 3 reported that working on the RoboCup robot was one of the highlights of the class. However, not enough time was scheduled to work on the robot, which meant it wasn’t finished by the end of the year and students had to come in during the summer to complete it in time for the competition. In order to prevent this from happening again, the Engineering 3 schedule has been updated to provide students enough time to complete the robot. “We’re hoping that we can get our Engineering 3 students this year working on the robot by the end of October––mid-to-late October––to give them more time to work on the big robot projects,” Hoogenakker said.

Before work on the robot starts, students are learning more about the aspects of robot designing that last year’s seniors found the most difficult. The year starts with learning how to use GitHub, a software development platform that allows students to share and edit each other’s code. Next, students teach themselves the basics of Python, the programming language used in Engineering. Students also learn about wiring and how to solve several basic hardware problems.

In addition to the main robot, several new projects are being added to Engineering 3 for seniors to work on. Another robot, designed to operate outdoors in conditions unsafe for humans, will be designed and built. Last year’s robot, Robert, will be maintained so students can learn about how it was made––what worked and what didn’t––and also to have as a backup in case anything goes wrong with the new robot.