Army scientists bring robots to San Antonio high schools
Andrew Kosinski (left) show KIPP Prep High School students how to maneuver Army robots at a demonstration in San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 5.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Jan. 6, 2010) -- Thousands of local high school students interacted with the newest Army technology as civilian engineers, scientists, and researchers toured the area and answered questions from teenagers interested in pursuing Army civilian careers.

In preparation for the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, set for Jan. 9, scientists from the Research, Development and Engineering Command gave students a first-hand look at current and emerging technology and detailed the path to become involved in the creation of future battlefield technology as they visited high schools here Jan. 5-6.

"The kids have really been interested in the technology," said Bernard Theisen from the Tank and Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at Warren, Mich. "Robotics in general, whether it be military or commercial, is a growing industry and the United States is trying to take advantage of it so we're trying to get kids involved and we're trying to build the industry here."

The RDECOM scientists and engineers involved in the program hope to leave a lasting impact on the students that they may consider a field in Army technology. The program has had a positive effect as feedback from students and school administrators has been supportive.

"The impact is very positive," said John Cua of the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center at Fort Monmouth, N.J. "The students are eager to learn and are happy to have this opportunity."

The impact could have an immediate effect as some of the students are participating in robotic competitions, Theisen said, and the teachers have been able to take this unique experience and build upon the interest.

"This gives the students a more in-depth idea of robotics," said Che'la Wallace, biology and robotics teacher at KIPP Prep High School. "The students will be competing in April at a robotics competition, so this is very good experience and soon they'll have to start building and programming."

Some of the students who were already interested in joining the Army were surprised to find out there was a field of robotics they had only seen before in video games. The experience served to reinforce their previous decisions and to also pursue an education that would allow them more interaction with the technology.

"Our teacher said robotics was used in the Army, but I didn't know it was this much," said Vicente Limon, a 9th grade student at KIPP Prep High School. "Me and my friend want to join the Army, so now we found another branch that we can go in to."

The TARDEC engineers aren't new to these types of programs, Theisen said, and engage students quite often in order to build the robotics industry. The San Antonio tour was just another in a long line of this type of community outreach.

"We have a program for middle schoolers we support called Robofest. We support high school programs, and for university we're the main sponsor for the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition," Theisen said.

The most important element for the scientists and engineers is that every student that wants an opportunity to interact with the technology gets one. They are in no hurry to leave and they are willing to spend as much time with the kids as possible.

"We want every kid to physically touch the robot," Theisen said. "We're here until they kick us out."

The engineers want the students to know that there are several different ways to support the Solider. "You don't just have to wear a green uniform," he said, "you can get a engineering degree and support them on the civilian end." Theisen hopes these programs encourage students to take that path.

"Hopefully, if they weren't thinking about pursuing a high-tech field, they'll leave here considering a career designing and repairing robots," he said.

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Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16