June 4, 2014

Looking to increase student interest in pursuing STEM (science, technology and math) degrees, high schools and middle schools are looking for LSU College of Engineering Peer Mentors to help with their robotics programs. With many new schools ready to begin competing in the fall, the robotics peer mentors are rapidly increasing in order to help as many teams as possible.

When asked how robotics has impacted his life, Cooper Daigle, peer mentor and chemical engineering major said, “It’s made me rethink my career path, and I have to think: if more students were exposed to robotics in middle and high school, they wouldn’t have to get to college to figure out how enjoyable robotics can be, as well as all the options it provides.”

Although robotics is a passion for many of the mentors involved, all would agree that the main reason they spend countless hours helping teams is to inspire younger students to pursue a career in the STEM fields. It is no surprise that middle school and high school students are easily motivated by college students. The impact that the mentors have on these age groups is tremendous, and the mentors agree that it is an opportunity that they feel so thankful to have.

Three of the most popular competitions in the area are BEST, FIRST, and Vex.

“What I like most about Vex is that everyone is a team and seeing the team put together a project and watch it excel has to be the biggest joy to me,” describes Rashad Paynes, who mentored Lee High School’s Vex team.

BEST, (Boosting Engineering, Science, and Technology), is a national 6-week robotics competition in the held each fall, designed to help interest middle school and high school students in possible engineering careers. BEST robots are extremely affordable for schools and there is no entry fee for competitions. Competition games consist of completing certain tasks following an engineering process, similar to what they would experience in future engineering jobs. Matches contain four robots simultaneously competing against one another.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotic Competitions are also composed of both middle school and high school levels. In the middle school competitions, FIRST Lego League, teams learn a basic programming language and are tested on their creativity skills by building Lego bots.

The FIRST Tech Challenge for high schools is comprised of robots that are equal in size to the Vex robots, generally meaning they are more affordable. During the competition, a six-week build season challenges teams to construct a robot of 120 pounds maximum-capacity that can complete certain tasks during three-versus-three robot matches. Within this short time frame, the students share an incredible bond and are more inspired to pursue an engineering degree.

For more information about the robotics competitions, visit www.usfirst.org and www.redstickrobotics.org. For more information about the LSU College of Engineering Peer Mentors, visit www.step.eng.lsu.edu/peermentors

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Article by Lindsey Bruton, LSU College of Engineering Peer Mentor and mechanical engineering major.



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