Engineering students demonstrate robotic projects

Palm Beach State students Camilo Abril and Robert Cook beamed with pride Tuesday as the arms of their remote-controlled drawbridge slowly opened and closed.

Made with Popsicle sticks, cardboard, craft foam, spray paint as well as two motors from a Lego Mindstorms kit, the drawbridge is their term project for an Introduction to Engineering class taught by adjunct instructor Arthur Garcia.

“I’m pleased with it,” said Abril, an aspiring civil engineer, after describing some of their strategies for overcoming design challenges, including the switch to cardboard for much of the structure because initially it was too heavy for the motors to lift it.

“He wanted us to be creative. He wanted us to use other materials than the Legos he gave us,’’ Abril said of his instructor.

Abril and Cook, an aspiring mechanical engineer, were among about 20 students who demonstrated their projects in the lobby of the Natural Science Building on the Lake Worth campus as faculty, staff and students looked on.

Garcia decided in 2011 to open the demonstrations of his class term projects to the College community to raise awareness and get more students interested in the engineering field. Garcia, an adjunct since 2005 and a 2012 recipient of a PBSC Bravo Award, held the inaugural Engineering Demo Day on the Boca Raton campus where he used to teach. He has been coordinating the event on the Lake Worth campus since fall 2012.

Camilo Abril and Robert Cook combined their respective interest in civil and mechanical engineering to create their drawbridge.

He said the project is possible because of the Lego Mindstorms Kits the College purchased for his class. He recycles the kits each term. While the kits come with instructions on how to build about two dozen different standard robot plans, students go beyond that.

Ariana Mouring and Emily Mendoza showcase their Rubik’s cube solving robot.

“A lot of students are thinking outside the box. They don’t necessarily build a robot that Lego Mindstorms has,’’ he said, noting that the drawbridge and a 3-D printer created by another student, Marianne Fortin, are among the examples of when students have incorporated their own ideas.

“That’s very original. You don’t find that in standard projects,” he said. “Different students have different ideas. They’re always amazing me as far as what they come up with. “It’s been interesting to see the very different creations.”

Abril and Cook decided to combine their respective interests in civil and mechanical engineering to create their final class project, and they said they appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate it outside the classroom.

“It gives us some exposure, and it could get us internships or a scholarship,’’ Cook said.

Ariana Mouring, a Lake Worth High School senior and early admission student at PBSC, worked with engineering classmate Emily Mendoza to develop a Rubik’s cube solving robot using an NXT kit. They said they also had to overcome challenges of the robot not picking up the Rubik’s cube and solving it each time, but they finally were able to get it to work.

“I feel like it’s a good way to introduce this to other people. It always feels nice to let people know what we have done because it has taken some time doing it and solving some problems,’’ Mendoza said.

“The class is more open to students,” Mouring said. “It helps students who don’t know much about engineering to see what we have done and think maybe I want to do that.”

Videography and photography by Idalia Centeno.

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