Battling-Robot Builders in Latrobe Gain Insight into Careers

Article excerpt

Thirteen-year-old Jared Skoloda took apart a robot he spent this week building in a matter of minutes.

The Greater Latrobe Junior High student wanted to get outside to launch the model rocket he designed this week.

He and 27 other Westmoreland County seventh-graders attended a week-long manufacturing day camp where they learned what type of physics, math and mechatronics -- a combination of mechanic and electronic engineering -- skills it takes for a career in manufacturing.

But the academics were hidden in a curriculum of building and battling robots and designing model rockets.

"A lot of kids don't realize that they have these (career) options," said Julianne Metzger, who helped organize the camp. "So we teach them these concepts that are disguised in projects we knew they would have a lot of fun with."

Southwest Tech Prep Consortium funded the 3-year-old camp held at Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center in Latrobe.

Each student built a rocket by shaping a water bottle and designing a tail fin with 3-D modeling software and a launch pad out of PCP pipe and a nozzle to allow for air to build up pressure in the rocket.

Then, they created a robot in two- or three-person groups to battle each other in a NCAA-style tournament.

Earlier in the week, they took a field trip to the Carnegie Science Center to preview the new robotics exhibit, which includes robots able to play Foosball and air hockey against humans.

Jared said building the robot -- with teammates 12-year-old Jay Zimmerman and Mack Tantlinger of Ligonier Valley School District -- was his favorite part. …