In 2010 the Computer Science, Mathematics and Engineering (CME) Department of Shepherd University received one of two $100,000 grants given in the state of West Virginia. This trust fund grant is to be used to fund further research and teachings into the science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M for short) programs for the undergraduates of Shepherd.
To make this fun and not just about a classroom setting, Shepherd University's CME department has set up an annual Robotics competition that is held in March. This year, on March 3 and 4, the second annual ShepRoboFest will take place at the Butcher Center.
Dr. Seung-yun Kim, assistant professor in the Computer Science, Mathematics and Engineering Department, heads up the RoboFest competition. The RoboFest has three categories for students of different ages to participate: the unofficial Lego Competition which is held for students age 9-14, the firefighting competition held for high school students and beyond, and finally the Mech-Warfare competition which is held for the college age level.
"(We are) trying to promote S.T.E.M subjects to a younger audience. That these subjects are not boring, but cool and fun subjects for students to learn about." Dr. Kim stated.
Not only does this program invite college students to participate, but also encourages a younger demographic to come try their hand at new ways to explore technology without being in a classroom setting. To help spread the word about these competitions local area schools have had demonstrations from the CME department.
"We are hoping that we can continue with the annual competition at Shepherd and demonstrations at the local schools, even after the grant is over. Hopefully we can continue with new grants," mentioned Dr. Kim.
The ShepRoboFest is one of many robotics competitions on the east coast. Most competitions consist of the firefighting competition; but, Shepherd is the only school on the east coast that hosts a Mech- Warfare Competition. This competition allows participants to build a robot that mimics some of the things that are seen in the science fiction genre, just at a smaller scale. This category allows weapons to be used on the robots, albeit in a safe manner.
"In all weapons classes, any mech that is capable of shooting without explicit human input must have a verified remote kill switch and a visual indicator that they are 'armed'! We will not have Skynet go live on our watch," an excerpt of the rule book stated, adding a little humor to the competition and knowledge that safety is a priority.
Each of these competitions allow people to work as teams and individuals to build a robot that is innovative and meets the requirements that are set for the competitions. Each competition has specific requirements that must be met to compete. All of these can be found on the website for the competition, www.sheprobofest.com. Registration is still open and all who wish to participate, even spectators, must register for this two-day event.