Alfred University News

Alfred University hosts local high school students for robot assembly, programming exercises

High school students from the Arkport and Canaseraga school districts visited Alfred University this week, participating in a robotics and computer programming class hosted by the Inamori School of Engineering and spearheaded by Professor of Electrical Engineering Xingwu Wang.

The students assembled and programmed miniature robots – the same robots Wang’s Introduction to Circuits class assembled during the Fall semester – then put the robots through their paces in the Connors Learning Commons.

Approximately 30 sophomore engineering students participated in the day-long event, which consisted of morning and afternoon sessions, providing demonstrations to the high schoolers.

The robots are assembled using iconographic directions downloaded onto students’ cellphones; students also use their cell phones to develop the computer code that directs each robot through a series of motions, including tossing a small ball through a miniature basketball hoop.

The assembly and programming of each robot deliberately eliminates the necessity for written instructions, as well as instructional lectures, Wang notes. “The goal is to make the learning experience interactive. It’s also fun.”

Inviting high school-age students to the campus is also a way of building a future generation of technology experts, he added. The robots introduce students to the basics of electrical circuits, Also, as miniature robot technology becomes more sophisticated, young students may also become familiar with the burgeoning technology of artificial intelligence.  

Teachers accompanying the students indicated the desire among their students for computer skills is small but growing. Kristi Briggs, who teaches computer technology in the Canaseraga Central School District, says she introduces pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students to basic computer theory, such as algorithms.

Since an algorithm is basically a set of instructions for solving a problem, Briggs says the word can be used to describe an activity as simple as brushing teeth.

Kindergarten students can understand that idea, she said, even if they can’t remember the word “algorithm,” which for some sounds a lot like “alligator.”