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Robots Invade Campus

Published: Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 11:09

Despite popular belief, robotics is not an entirely new technology. Robots have been in use all the way back to the days of Leonardo da Vinci and his Antrhobot. Over the years, they have evolved and grown for uses in a select few fields, namely special effects and automobile manufacturing. Recently though, robotics has changed from an elite club for those select few with superb mathematic, programming, and engineering skills to a field that is more open minded as to what exactly a robot is supposed to do. Instead of using robots for manufacturing only, robots are now being used pretty much anytime there is a repetitive, labor intensive or dangerous atmosphere. Of course, they are still being used for fun too. Luckily, BC3 has picked up on this pioneering spirit and now has a new Robotics program!

That's right, robots have invaded BC3! Not literally, but BC3 Main Campus now offers an associate degree program in Robotics. Started in 2007 through a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), California University of Pennsylvania (CUP), and Butler County Community College, the program has taken the past two and a half years to evolve into the final product. Launched in the 2009-2010 school year, the Robotics program is designed to prepare students for both advancing to a four year school, or if the student chooses, getting a robotics career started right after graduation.

The program offers a range of courses from drafting to programming, but the main emphasis lies in electronics. Students will begin by learning the basics of electronics and advance to subjects such as digital logic, transistors and amplifiers, diode applications, etc. The program culminates in classes that teach students how to program and use the individual processors and sensors used to build robots. These tools aren't just for teaching, either. "Most of our (technology) is cutting edge," says Denton Dailey, BC3's advisor to the new program. This is proven by Carnegie Science Center's new roboworld exhibit which uses new age technology to teach visitors about robotics and their possible implementations into our world. Most of the displays run off of BASIC Stamps programmed by CMU's students; BC3's Robot Enabling Technology class is taught using the same microprocessors. Also, a recent Robot magazine shows how Grant Imahara (of Mythbusters fame) built an interactive humanoid robot for a popular TV show. The microprocessor used to run it all? That's right, the BASIC Stamp. So not only is the technology used in the classrooms up to date, it is also the same technology students will be working with once they enter the workforce. Everything from a variety of microprocessors, sensors, and circuits to pre-built robots and even manufacturing arms are available for the student's use.

Even if a student is looking to advance to a four-year school for their Bachelor Degree, BC3 has it covered. The original collaboration between CMU, CUP, and BC3 has already expanded to include schools such as Penn State Behrend and Robert Morris University. Carnegie Mellon and Robert Morris also offer a Master degree option, although Carnegie Mellon offers only a Masters Degree (meaning a student would have to get their Bachelor degree at another school beforehand). If a student wanted to look elsewhere for a Bachelor degree, schools such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, and Purdue University all have a strong offering of degree options.

If a student wanted to enter the workforce right out of BC3, that's an option too. One of the reasons BC3, CMU, and CUP decided to start the program was because research done by Robin Shoop (Director of Robotics Academy, CMU) showed that there is a very strong growth projection for jobs in the Pittsburgh area. Indeed, companies such as McKessen Automated Systems, Ibistek, and Redzone Robotics have proven that Pittsburgh is becoming the pioneer for robotics. "That's one thing you can be almost certain of," says Dave Schiebel, professor of Robotics at BC3, "that this region will be a robotics leader."

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