First the good news: The job market for engineers and technicians is strong. Then the bad news: The number of U.S. graduates in engineering-related areas is down.
Then the good news: Thirty-three students from throughout the region attended the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Summer Math-Science-Technology Institute, where two Pellissippi State Community College faculty members were among the instructors promoting careers in science, technology, engineering and math—or STEM—to future college students.
Ken Swayne and Carl Mallette, both associate professors in Engineering Technology at Pellissippi State, taught robotics at the ARC event in Oak Ridge.
The Summer Institute is a collaboration of the ARC, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. It provides residential hands-on research projects, focusing on STEM for high school students and teachers. ORNL is the host facility, and each group of students and instructors falls under the supervision of ORNL mentors.
Mallette and Swayne led a team of nine high school students in the two-week session of “Robotic Systems and Engineering Development.” They taught the basic concepts behind robotics, concentrating on programming, the difference between open- and closed-loop applications, and the importance of robotic feedback.
Students came from all over Appalachia: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia to attend the institute.
At the end of the two weeks, the robotics team was able to show off what its members had learned. They stood on the stage in the Pollard Auditorium at ORAU as peers, mentors, facilitators, ORNL and ORAU leaders, teachers and parents watched the robot they had built and programmed successfully follow their commands.
“Our goal in the ARC robotic session,” said Mallette, “was to show the students how important and interesting engineering can be.”
The instructors seem to have met their goal.
One of the participants on the Pellissippi State–led robotics team was Anissa Duckett, a rising junior at Meigs County High School. Duckett thought she would major in nursing after she graduated from high school, but after participating in the ARC program, she says she may pursue a career in robotics instead.
In Duckett’s opinion, Mallette and Swayne were “awesome.”
“They were fun and very helpful,” she said. “They explained stuff until we understood it.
“I definitely enjoyed the hands-on parts, like getting to construct the robot and program three robots. I want to look more into the fields of robotics and engineering.”
“Pellissippi State has a strong Engineering Technology program that offers Electrical, Mechanical and Civil engineering concentrations,” Swayne said. “And the ARC does an excellent job in encouraging kids to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math, so our participation this summer was a natural fit.”
Pellissippi State offers robotic and automation courses in the Electrical Engineering concentration of the Engineering Technology degree program.
For information about Engineering Technology and other programs at Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.