9/19/2014 5:46:44 AM

Robotics Research Informs Career Choices

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

By Mark Adam

As the fall semester begins and students meet professors and scan syllabi, two students in Siena’s School of Science are already knee-deep in research. Kelly Nealon ’15 and KJ Robinson ’14 each spent eight weeks this summer working on their own robotics research projects as part of the College’s Summer Scholars program. They plan on continuing that work through independent study and advanced lab this semester while narrowing their career focus.

“The research experiences really open up ‘what do I really want to do and what is it really like,’ (questions),” said Michele McColgan, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics, who is mentoring both Nealon and Robinson. Graziano Vernizzi, Ph.D., associate professor of physics and astronomy, and Joe Kujawski, engineer in residence, are also providing support and guidance to the students.

Nealon and Robinson will present their research at Siena’s second annual Summer Research Symposium on Friday, September 27 in the Sarazen Student Union. This event showcases all research and creative activity from the summer.

Nealon had never worked with robots before, so she learned a new coding language and the mechanics of the robot. Her robot drives around and uses a sonar sensor to locate and avoid obstacles, similar to a Roomba vacuum. The project tested her problem solving skills as most of her time was spent de-bugging the robot.

“I’m glad I did this, and I really like the coding. This actual project was very frustrating and I don’t know if I have the patience for robotics long-term,” Nealon said laughing. She is looking into medical physics and engineering as potential careers.

Robinson used the same $30 Arduino board, which serves as the brain of the robots. Her robot sends out signals to beacons and then the beacons bounce them back so that the robot can figure out its location. The intended application is for a robot to fertilize and weed crops on a small farm.

Robinson learned a new coding program, electrical engineering strategies and how to program the Arduino board.

“It’s a lot of hands-on learning and it’s individual,” Robinson said.

Robinson just applied to Union Graduate College’s program in electrical engineering. If accepted, she would attend UGC through its articulation agreement with Siena, which was established in April.


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