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January 25, 2013

Hartwick class to harness robot power

Staff Report
The Daily Star

---- — Robot power, programmed by Hartwick College students, will be demonstrated at the Oneonta campus for two fourth-grade classes and for the public next week.

“The Robot Showcase has become very popular with people from all over — both on- and off-campus — who look forward to seeing what our students have created,” associate professor Susan Carbone said. “We are very excited about showcasing our students’ creativity and programming skills.”

Lego robotics programming is an introductory course offered for students during Hartwick’s January term. Carbone, chairwoman of the college’s computer and information sciences, and associate professor Howard Lichtman teach the course, which covers the fundamentals of computer programming and moves to the special topic of robotics programming.

“It’s a fun computer science course,’’ Carbone said. “It’s a fun hands-on way to team and to learn formal reasoning, and the results are immediate.’’

Hartwick, a private liberal arts and science college, enrolls about 1,500 students. Hartwick emphasizes “liberal arts in practice,’’ Carbone said, and the course is an example of learning a skill, problem solving and developing logical reasoning and putting them into practice by testing programming theories on robots.

The course has been offered for six years, she said, and each year there is a waiting list for enrollment. This term’s class of 26 students will have a special robot-making project next week and will show their results, Carbone said Thursday.

On Thursday morning for the first time, two fourth-grade classes from Riverside Elementary School in Oneonta will be at the college to see robots in action, Carbone said. Three robots will be available for pupils to try, including one that can play rock-paper-scissors, she said.

At 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 1, students will demonstrate their robots in Johnstone Science Center, Room 301, Carbone said. The showcase, held on the Hartwick College campus, is free and open to the public.

“People look forward to it,’’ she said. “Last year, it was standing room only.’’

Using LEGO NXT-G kits, students build and program robots of increasing complexity throughout the course, beginning on the first day, a media release from Hartwick said.

Students have worked in teams of two to build and program several different robots including a card reader with a lock box, an M&M sorter and a robot that plays the children’s game of rock-paper-scissors.

The LEGO NXT-G robots have sensors for sound, light, touch and distance plus three motors for movement, the release said. Students build and program robots to perform, then modify them to handle more sophisticated problems and tasks.

As a final project, students will build and program a robot, something they have designed or from a plan, the release said.