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BCCC celebrates National Robotics Week

Linwood Outlaw III | 4/8/2016, 9:15 a.m.
Students in Baltimore City Community College’s Robotics/Mechatronics Technology Program are learning how to maintain and operate modern robots.
Lego Mindstorms® NXT robot programmed by students in the BCCC Robotics Program to follow a line using a light sensor (Courtesy photo)

Students in Baltimore City Community College’s Robotics/Mechatronics Technology Program are learning how to maintain and operate modern robots.

Program Coordinator Yun Liu says a major part of the curriculum is having students build Lego Mindstorm robots with light, ultrasound, touch and sound sensors.

“Once finished, the robots should be able to follow lines, hear noise levels, and detect obstacles,” Liu said.

BCCC Robotics student Emmanuel Lewis, 18, of Loch Raven, says it is the authenticity of the Robotics program, which gives him confidence he is on the right path to becoming a technician capable of programming and repairing robots in different applications.

“This program goes in-depth. It gives you a chance to experiment with equipment you’ll actually be using on the job,” said Lewis, who aspires to start his own robotics engineering company.

During this week’s seventh annual National Robotics Week celebration (April 2–10, 2016), BCCC focused its efforts on encouraging more students, particularly more women and minorities, to become Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) professionals and enroll in the BCCC Robotics/ Mechatronics Technology Program— a gateway to top bachelor’s degree programs in engineering at nearby institutions including Morgan State University and Capitol Technology University in Laurel, Maryland.

In addition to daily social media outreach, the college’s National Robotics Week campaign featured a Twitter chat during which Associate Professor of Mathematics and Engineering Michael Kaye answered questions about the BCCC Robotics/Mechatronics Technology Program and the career outlook for electro-mechanical technicians.

“As the only two-year college in Maryland that offers an associate degree in robotics technology, BCCC is committed to preparing students for careers in the rapidly expanding industry of automated manufacturing,” said Kaye. “The need for minorities and women mechanical engineers and electro-mechanical technicians with broad skills is becoming more crucial as demand increases for engineers to design and build new robotic equipment across multiple sectors.”

Established in 2010 by Congress and the iRobot Corporation, an American advanced technology company specializing in building robots for home and defense/security purposes, National Robotics Week stimulates interest in robotics and other STEM fields through school events, competitions, and other learning-focused activities.

Robots continuously revolutionize ways in which people conduct everyday activities. A pillar of 21st century American innovation, Robotics Technology is positioned to produce an array of next-generation products in manufacturing, health care, national defense and security, and transportation in the coming years.

Electro-mechanical technicians, who operate and test robotic equipment, earn a median annual wage of about $53,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They typically need either an associate degree or a postsecondary certificate to gain employment. As demand increases for engineers to design and build new equipment in various fields, so will demand for highly skilled electro-mechanical technicians.

STEM jobs are growing at a faster rate than non-STEM occupations, iRobot says, and BCCC is helping to meet this demand.

The college’s Robotics/Mechatronics Technology Program offers extensive training in electronics, computer and mechanical controls, pneumatics, data acquisition and hydraulics related to industrial robots. In two years, students can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Robotics Technology and transition directly into a bachelor’s degree program.

Students in the BCCC Engineering/ Technology (ET) Scholars Scholarship can receive up to $4,150 per academic year. The deadline to apply for the fall 2016 ET cohort is April 15, 2016. In addition to Robotics, ET programs at BCCC include engineering transfer, computer information systems, and computer-aided design and drafting.