Blinn Engineering Program robot battle combines technology, collaboration, and strategy

Demonstration highlights engineering students' creativity and Blinn's state-of-the-art resources

Demonstration highlights engineering students' creativity and Blinn's state-of-the-art resources

November 12, 2019

A Blinn College District engineering student steered his pin-lanced robot to attack the balloon mounted on the back of a classmate’s counterpart. A robot battle was underway with one simple objective—use a mobile application to pop the balloon affixed to an opponent’s robot with a pin, while preserving your robot’s balloon from becoming the next victim.

This was the scene Friday morning in the lobby of the Blinn College District’s Walter C. Schwartz Building at the RELLIS Campus, as engineering students and their robots left a trail of recently popped pink, green, and blue balloons in their wake.

“We had five in our group and we really enjoyed this class today,” said Blinn student Dany Ibrahim, who plans to study civil engineering. “I’m really competitive and the whole idea was fun to create something because I always used to play with mechanics as a kid.”

The event was the culmination of months of preparation as teams of engineering students worked together to build their Digital Systems Teaching and Research (DSTR) robots from kits developed by Texas Space Technology Applications and Research (T STAR). Using these kits as a base, students injected their own creatively with color modifications and unique names like Rocky, Poseidon, Leonidas, and Claw. Groups also utilized a 3D printer to create specific elements of their machines.

“Hands-on applications of technology are what really motivate students to go into STEM fields,” Blinn Engineering Professor David Fleeger said. “With this project, we want to encourage teamwork and our students’ creative minds to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things.”

Friday’s robotics demonstration was designed specifically for students enrolled in ENGR 1201: Introduction to Engineering, the first engineering class students encounter when pursuing Blinn’s 60-credit hour Associate of Science Degree in Engineering. ENGR 1201 gives students an introduction to the engineering profession with an emphasis on technical communication and team-based engineering design.

“This class is a good start to figure out what engineering is because we didn’t have anything like this in my high school,” said Blinn student Sarah Ortiz, who is interested in majoring in biomedical engineering and conducting stem cell research.

The robot construction and demonstration were facilitated by the guidance and assistance of Texas A&M University professor emeritus Dr. Joseph Morgan and Texas A&M University adjunct professor and T STAR President Matt Leonard. Through their mobile integrated systems laboratory, the two have committed to STEM outreach programs and have found a partner in Blinn.

“We have been very successful over the last couple of years of working with Blinn and through that process we have identified a number of young men and women who didn’t know about mechatronics, who have come to Texas A&M, have started in the program, and who are doing quite well,” Morgan said. “This is a tremendous recruiting opportunity for us.”

Next up for ENGR 1201 students are continued modifications to their DSTR robots with the goal of programming them to operate autonomously. Fleeger hopes to showcase these added abilities in a robot “dance off” that may feature a robot conga line.

Blinn’s Associate of Science Degree in Engineering prepares students to pursue any type of engineering career, including specialties such as aerospace, biomedical, civil, electrical, mechanical, petroleum, and more. Blinn engineering students gain project-based experience while exploring engineering theory and building a strong background in chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Students who complete their associate degree are prepared to transfer to the state’s leading four-year engineering programs to continue their studies.

For more information about Blinn’s engineering programs, including the Texas A&M Engineering Academy at Blinn-Brenham and the Texas A&M Engineering Academy at Blinn-Bryan, visit www.blinn.edu/engineering.

Registration for Blinn’s Winter Minimester is available through Dec. 15, and registration for the Spring semester is open through Jan. 20. College officials encourage early registration for convenient scheduling and placement in high-demand courses.

For enrollment or financial aid information, visit  www.blinn.edu/admissions.

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