Combining their love for math, science and electronics, the Robotics Club at North Campus has created a way for students to see their talents come alive.
The organization, which started four years ago when math professor Manuel Caramés personally funded the club for two students, allows participants to apply what they learn in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses into a real-life setting.
Now with more than twenty members, the club has come a long way from the early days. Club members meet twice a week to discuss projects.
They create robots in a personal environment. Members have created machines such as the obstacle avoidance robot that can self-detect obstacles in its path to avoid them, and a Segway-like robot that can stand and balance on its own wheels.
“Everything we do for the club is hands-on,” said club member Isaac McPerebo. “We get individual attention and help that, otherwise, would not be possible in a classroom setting.”
Meetings allow members to experience all aspects of what robotics is about. Members brainstorm their own projects and have a direct effect on what will be built.
“Students have to first be ‘head-on’ and then hands-on,” Caramés said. “They have to first think about the mechanics of constructing a robot before they are able to put anything together.”
Aside from the robots themselves, the club has created a greater outreach to the community in order to promote the use of robotics. Last summer, the club collaborated with the STEM Ladder to Student Success, a program at North Campus aimed at increasing the involvement of low-income minorities in the STEM fields, to create a three-week summer camp for high school students in Miami-Dade County.
The summer camp involved learning the basics of robotics and its application to the real world through the Lego Robotics system. More than 50 students participated in the program.
“We got to bond as a team along with the other students,” McPerebo said. “ We were their teacher, but we learned so much from each other.”
Despite its achievements, the club has faced several challenges. The club hopes to continue to grow and enter competitions, but that has been difficult because they lack the funding to acquire new and improved software, and additional robot parts.
In addition, every year, new members must learn from scratch all that goes into building a robot.
“We’re on a learning curve because [Miami Dade College] does not offer robotics classes, so we learn as we go along,” said club president Stephen Blasco. “We all learn from each other, and we all learn together.”
Blasco is hoping that bond will continue to help the organization move forward. He hopes to see the club reach higher levels.
“I hope to leave the club in better shape than when I started, in order to see it improve more than ever before,” Blasco said.
The Robotics Club meets at North Campus in Room 7325 on Wednesdays at 12 p.m. and Fridays at 1 p.m. For more information about the club, contact Caramés at 305-237-1013 or at email@example.com