Robots, engineering capture the imagination of AISD students at camp

Posted July 27, 2010

For years, sci-fi movies and novels have depicted a world populated by artificially intelligent robots – devices that will one day work for the betterment of humankind. This summer, the next generation of robotic programmers took one step closer to achieving their long sought-after goal.

ACU Computer Science instructor Ray Pettit shared his experience in this fast-developing field with attendees at the 2010 Robotics Workshop, hosted by Texas Tech University at Abilene. The young participants are computer science students from the Abilene Independent School District's Academy of Technology, Engineering, Math and Science.

"It's great to see young people interested in technology," says Pettit. "We know there are many activities they can choose from during the summer and we're encouraged that so many expressed interest in our camp. Many of the students came in without much background in programming, but left knowing quite a bit. I think this has been a good introduction to the field."

The camp, which began last week, taught students the basics of programming. They quickly learned enough to write code, which allowed their robots to perform basic functions.

Tom Dolan, associate director of TTU at Abilene, says this is not the first time Pettit has worked with these ATEMS students to inspire them toward greater interest in computer science. Pettit and the rest of the ACU School of Information Technology and Computing share the goals of TTU at Abilene: to promote engineering and computer science in the area's public schools.

"The connection between Texas Tech at Abilene and ACU's computer science program is strong," says Dolan. "Members of ACU's faculty, including Ray, along with several ACU alumni have received graduate computer science degrees from Texas Tech, and we share a similar interest in engineering and computer science outreach."

The students were able to learn using Scribbler robots, which cost around $200 each. They are equipped with a digital camera, infrared light sensors and a holding area for a marker, so the robots can draw paths. Funding for the workshop was provided by Dr. Mohan Sridharan, an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at Texas Tech University, and his Department of Naval Research Grant.


Photo by Thomas Metthe/Reporter-News


Did you know? ACU's Theatre Department recently staged Shakespeare's Othello with a modern twist. During the performance, audience members interacted with the cast and each other through a blog viewable on their mobile devices. Catch a glimpse of this theatre experience unlike any you've ever seen.