Campus: CSU Northridge -- November 30, 2005

The Robots are Coming! CSUN to Host Kids and Their Creations

Up to six hundred middle and high school students from the Southern California area will converge on Cal State Northridge to take part in two robotics competitions set for Saturday, Dec. 10.

Designed to spark an interest in science and technology among young people, the competitions will be hosted by CSUN’s Manufacturing Systems Engineering and Management Department with the support of US FIRST, a nonprofit multinational organization whose goal is to make science, math, engineering and technology “as cool for kids as sports are today.”

The competitions will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Jacaranda Hall near the center of the campus at 18111 Nordhoff St. in Northridge.

Manufacturing systems engineering and management lecturer Tarek Shraibati, an event organizer, said he hopes the program will introduce more students to the world of robotics and “start planting the seed that science and engineering are possible ways to go for career choices.”

The “Ocean Odyssey” competition for the middle school level requires teams of up to ten students and at least two adult coaches to research the impact of human activities on the health and productivity of the earth’s oceans and seas.

At locations in and around Jacaranda Hall, the middle school teams will put set LEGO-constructed robots through their paces on a 4’ x 8’ mat representing the ocean. Pint-sized facsimiles of ocean submersibles or other student-devised robots will be commanded to perform timed tasks such as repairing an underwater pipeline, building an artificial reef or cleaning up a cargo shipping accident.

Teams will be judged on the quality of the software programs they design for their robots—which include gears, motors and rotation, optical and touch sensors—as well as on the engineering aspects and durability of their machines.

Afterwards, each team will give a presentation related to the effects of humans on oceans.

The more sophisticated high school level competition, called “The Half Pipe Hustle,” will pose a series of physical challenges for the robots. Built by the students from kits that include motors, radio control systems and various structural elements, the mid-sized robots will perform a series of complicated timed maneuvers on a 12’ x 12’ physically challenging “field.”

Judging criteria for “The Half Pipe Hustle”--sponsored in its inaugural year by RadioShack--will be the same as in the “Ocean Odyssey” competition. The contest, said Shraibati, offers participating high school students an affordable robotics kit with which to work, allowing more students to compete.

Winners will receive medallions, but Shraibati said prizes are not the focus of the competition. Its purpose, he said, is “to show kids that they can do things they didn’t think they could do, and that they can have fun in a sportsmanlike way.”

For more information, contact Shraibati at (818) 677-4547.

Contacts: Jon Flores or Carmen Ramos Chandler, (818) 67-2130

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