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UHV professor teaches high school students about robotics

March 9, 2013 at 6:04 p.m.
Updated March 8, 2013 at 9:09 p.m.

Victoria West High School students Ruben Cavazos, left, and Kevin Clark program a robot to sort colored balls. They are part of a yearlong University of Houston-Victoria robotics program for area high school students.

Ten area high school students are spending the school year learning about robotics and computer programming at the University of Houston-Victoria as part of a program funded by Alcoa Foundation.

The students meet every Monday with Alireza Tavakkoli, a UHV assistant professor and director of UHV's digital gaming and simulation program.

They use advanced LEGO robotics kits and computer programming software to build various robots.

The program started last year as a semesterlong course and has expanded to a full year.

The students first met with Tavakkoli in August and will complete the program in May.

More than 30 students applied to participate, and only 10 were selected.

"Applying for the program was the first time I had to create a resume and cover letter," said Kevin Clark, Victoria West High School freshman. "This experience has taught me a lot about how important computer programming is in our lives. I think it would be a fun career."

One goal of Alcoa Foundation is to help area students excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics - also known as STEM education, said Ben Kahrs, location manager at Alcoa Point Comfort Operations.

The students have built several versions of robots throughout the year. They started with simple robots that moved forward and side to side and progressed to more advanced robots that could navigate a maze or move along a wall.

"These students are learning about robots that are useful in the real world," Tavakkoli said. "They are able to see how robotics and computer science fit into the world they live in. For example, the wall-crawling robot is similar technology to the iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner."

At the UHV/VC Math & Computer Science Awareness Day, also funded by the grant from Alcoa Foundation, the students will demonstrate robots that can sort colored balls and launch them.



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