Robots Offer College Lessons to Young Guests
Academic Bridge Students Spread Holiday Cheer, Interest in Engineering
Dec. 18, 2008
Thirteen students from Liberty Junior High School visited the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science recently to combine robotic gears and enjoy some holiday cheer.
They spent an afternoon with freshman Academic Bridge Program (ABP) participants and members of the law firm of Haynes and Boone LLP, which helped the visiting students build and program their robots.
“The students were so young but knew a lot about what was going on with the robots,” said Shwetha Ravikumar, a Jonsson school freshman. “I was surprised at their level of interest.”
The ECS RoboLab hummed with the sounds of teams working on Lego Mindstorms robots, as ABP students explained the mechanics of the equipment and how to control the electronic creations.
The five teams of RISD students ended their time in the RoboLab with a demonstration of their robots and programming prowess. The robots spun, responded to claps and moved forward and backward according to their programming protocol.
Tanner Kelly, another Jonsson school freshman, was impressed by his group of students.
“I was glad to share the enjoyable experience of programming with them,” said Kelly. “My group’s ability to create a 60-second program in such a short timeframe tells me this is probably what they’d like to do in life.”
The Academic Bridge Program, housed in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, provides a college “incubator” for students who graduate from Dallas-area urban high schools with high class rankings but who have not completed a full college prep curriculum. ABP students benefit from small initial class sizes of 20 or fewer students, tutoring, campus orientation activities and the supportive resources of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies for the duration of their UT Dallas academic career.
Dean George Fair summed up the message of the day by saying, “The students you worked with today were all like you just a couple of years ago. You can be accomplished like they are – all it takes is hard work.”
The visiting students received “Fearless Engineering” T-shirts, portfolios and calculators as mementos of their visit.
“In a few years we hope to see you in the freshman class at UT Dallas,” said Dr. Simeon Ntafos, ECS associate dean for undergraduate education. “Take the right classes - those in math and science - so majors like engineering will be open to you.”
The mini-camp and holiday party was made possible by the law firm of Haynes and Boone, LLP, and was a program of Communities In Schools Dallas Region.
“Providing an opportunity for children to engage in a positive experience in a college classroom really opens students’ minds and eyes to the potential they possess,” said Haynes and Boone Associate Dan Gold, who coordinated the firm’s participation in the event. “Promoting math and science studies is crucial to the success of future generations, and the ABP volunteers were great role models for these kids.”
Haynes and Boone, LLP is an international corporate law firm with offices in Texas, New York, Washington, D.C., Mexico City and Moscow. The firm is ranked among the largest law firms in the nation by The National Law Journal. Communities in Schools Dallas Region, Inc. provides academic support to students of nine school districts and works to help students at risk of failure stay in school.