A crowd of fans are gathered around the field cheering on their team. As the ball gets closer to the goal, the din gets louder and when a goal is made, the crowd erupts in congratulatory cheers – and groans. Sounds like a typical Saturday morning on a soccer filed, except that this is taking place on the second floor of the Liberty Science Center and the players have been built and programmed through robotics programs in schools in the New York and New Jersey area.
Amy Eguchi, associate professor of teacher education, is very involved in the New York/New Jersey Robocup Junior, which brings together schools and programs to strut their robot building and programming skills. The organization builds more than just robots, it helps young minds develop math skills, enhances critical thinking and problem solving, allows them to dabble in physics and lets them explore. The competitions involve dance, rescue, and soccer. The teams determine what they want their robot to do, then they must build and program the robot to do just that.
Dennis Farquharson, a junior education major, wants to teach high school math upon graduation. He is involved with the robotics program at Rise Academy in Newark, NJ. Rise Academy is one of the TEAM schools in Newark, which is part of a nationwide network of schools through the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). The emphasis of these schools is college preparatory for urban, low-income youth. The robotics program at Rise Academy is supported by Bloomfield College students.
Farquharson talks about the Rise Academy robotics program with great enthusiasm. “The students don’t realize that they are learning math, light calibration, physics and technology. Robotics gives math the X-factor which gets the students interested in applying knowledge and learning new things.” The process of the robotics program teaches the students how to program the robot to perform certain functions. The program is adjusted according to the task it is expected to perform. The students finely tune their robots to compete against other programs at the Robocup Junior competition.
Dr. Eguchi has taken several education majors to Robocup venues around the world. Farquharson went to Turkey, and several students went to Singapore to participate with Dr. Eguchi as coaches, referees, and judges in the international games. She also teaches EDC 120, Introduction to Robotics and EDC 326, Introduction to Educational Technology.
Approximately 20 students from Bloomfield College volunteered their time at this event; from education to CAT to CIS majors.