Vet and Engineering Come Together for Local Students’ Robotics Competition

Vet and Engineering Come Together for Local Students’ Robotics Competition

Penn Engineering has been a long-time partner of the FIRST LEGO League competition, in which elementary school students design and build LEGO robots to complete a series of tasks. This year’s theme is “Animal Allies,” so one local team visited Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center to learn about the ways in which technology is changing how pigs are raised.

The giant sows came up close, curious, some poking their snouts through the railings, as the eight elementary school students walked down the aisle, making their way through the enclosed barn.

These kids weren’t there just to see the pigs. They were on a scientific research quest.

Talking with excitement as they explored Penn Vet’s Swine Teaching and Research Center, the children considered the situation. What could be better about this environment for the sows? What could they design to make a difference? How could they make it work?

The questions are at the heart of an international competition, FIRST LEGO League, and the fourth and fifth graders from Hillendale and Pocopson Elementary Schools in Chester County are a team, the “Robotic Waffles.” They live near New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large animal hospital and campus where the Swine Center is located.

“All the kids are pig crazy now,” said Cora Forgeng, a team coach, with Denise Palahunik, both mothers of team members. “It is an experience the kids will remember for their entire lives.”

The Challenge

FIRST LEGO League each year releases a Challenge, which is based on a real-world scientific topic. This year’s theme is Animal Allies. According to the League, more than 28,000 teams of students, ages nine to 16, in 80 countries will participate and learn to think like scientists and engineers.

Penn Engineering for the past seven years has been a partner in the FIRST LEGO League Challenge, in charge of managing about 200 teams and the competitions in the Southeast Pennsylvania region, which includes five counties around Philadelphia.

“We believe this program is a very good way to introduce these young students to engineering, and inspire them to follow this career path, and also give them the skills to do so,” said Daniel Ueda, Associate Director for Education and Outreach for Penn Engineering’s GRASP Lab (General Robotics, Automation, Sensing & Perception).

“They are learning research skills, mechanical design skills, and programming skills,” he continued. “They are also learning the engineering design process, getting an excellent foundation for real engineering.”

Continue reading “New Bolton Center Pigs Star in International Competition” by Louisa Shepard at Penn Vet Extra .