July 15, 2008 — Middle school students from the area will be introduced to the wonders of engineering at the "Systems Robotics Design Camp: Nature as Inspiration" hosted this week by the Department of Systems and Information Engineering at the U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science. Throughout the week, students will learn about systems engineering while using their creativity and problem-solving skills to design and program robots.
Media is invited to visit the camp on Thursday, July 17 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., in Thornton Hall, D-wing, Rooms 221-223 (see map at www.virginia.edu/webmap/GMcCormickRoadArea.html).
During the camp, students will also learn key systems concepts such as finding the shortest path through a network and seeing how researchers are using natural systems as inspiration for solving problems that we all face in our daily lives
"This camp offers an experience grounded in systems engineering, yet appeals to kids who are interested in more than just robot assembly and programming," said Reid Bailey, assistant professor in the Department of Systems and Information Engineering. "We used the analogy of natural systems, such as foraging ants and swarming bees, as a basis for applying systems engineering to the development of robots."
In addition, campers will learn how:
* to work with Lego's Mindstorm robots to solve real problems.
* Mapquest figures out the best route between two cities.
* researchers at U.Va. are creating teams of robots that work together like ants.
According to camp organizers, reaching out to middle school students with a camp such as this is an effective way to avoid college enrollment shortages in science, technology, engineering and math programs and, in turn, support the growing need for trained professionals in these fields. Outreach programs such as these also help attract under-represented populations, including females, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans, to such fields.
Corporate sponsors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman funded several need-based scholarships this year.
For information, visit www.sys.virginia.edu/camp/.
About the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science:
Founded in 1836, the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science combines research and educational opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Within the undergraduate programs, courses in engineering, ethics, mathematics, the sciences and the humanities are available to build a strong foundation for careers in engineering and other professions. Its abundant research opportunities complement the curriculum and educate young men and women to become thoughtful leaders in technology and society. At the graduate level, the Engineering School collaborates with the University's highly ranked medical and business schools on interdisciplinary research projects and entrepreneurial initiatives. With a distinguished faculty and a student body of 2,000 undergraduates and 650 graduate students, the Engineering School offers an array of engineering disciplines, including cutting-edge research programs in computer and information science and engineering, bioengineering and nanotechnology. For information, visit www.seas.virginia.edu.