Robots found in BC classroom

Tyler McGinty

Robots are at Bakersfield College and they’ve been here longer than you think. The Levan Institute for Lifelong Learning has offered a robotics workshop for three years.

The robotics workshop is a class that lets students learn at their own pace and experiment with controlling and building robots. The course is open to anybody in the community, and although the class itself doesn’t give credit, there are opportunities to use the course to gain an independent research credit.

Josh and Grant Whittenberg, two students at BC, are gaining a research credit. Grant is a mechanical engineering major, and although Josh is pursuing a biology degree, he’s taking the course because it is “the only research opportunity on campus.”

A group of three engineering students are using the course and the help of the instructor to build a robot for a competition at the American Society of Electrical Engineers taking place June 27 in Vancouver, Canada.

Groups of students are expected to build a robot that can travel a certain distance, differentiate colors on dowels, take only wooden sticks of a specific color, and then come back.

“The robot we have to try to build has to have the capability of seeing the colors, seeing the wall so it won’t crash into it, knowing when to go back and forth and whatnot, and then once it’s done, to come back to the end of the board,” said Carlos Avlarez.

The three students have divided the work among themselves with Antonio Gonzalez, 22, developing the software or “brain” of the robot, Jesus Ortiz, 21, working on the arm that will grab the dowels, and Alvarez, 22, designing the body and frame for the robot.

The team had the idea last

semester, although they didn’t start any development on it. Now they have a sketch of their robot, and are almost ready to start building it with the help of the industrial department and their rapid prototyper.

The last two students here are Donna Starr, a math teacher at BC and her 15-year-old son Tyler, a sophomore at Highland High School.

“I’ve been using the Lego Mindstorms for two years,” Tyler said. “And I signed up for this class to learn more because the Mindstorms are like baby robots.”

Tyler has pursued robots as a hobby, and although it’s only his first semester in the class, he has already learned a lot more about programming robots.

“I’ve been able to make it move, I’ve been able to make it make a sound, I’ve made it navigate with the little whiskers to avoid walls,” said Tyler. “I’ve got it to avoid shadows, and now I’m working on getting it to follow the flashlight.”

Ronald Siemens, the instructor for the workshop, is very knowledgeable about the field, and is willing to tell people all about the advances that have been made. “Robots are flat out taking over,” said Siemens.