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Senator Rockefeller Visits BSC to View Robotics and Look Ahead

  • Created
    Friday, March 04 2011
  • Created by
    Jim Nelson/Media Relations - (304) 327-4103

(Bluefield)—Senator John D. “Jay” Rockefeller visited Bluefield State College last weekend, talking to BSC students and faculty with a passion for robotics and discussing the future of robotics in a roundtable that included regional robotics-reliant businesses, educators, and community leaders.

West Virginia’s senior U.S. Senator watched the BSC student robotics team put its autonomous ground vehicle, “Archon” through a series of test runs in which it navigated through an obstacle course by utilizing its sensory and processing technology capabilities.

“I am at Bluefield State to learn more about robotics and to ask, “Are kids getting the educational opportunities and instruction they need to prepare for the future?”  Rockefeller stated that robotics is a branch of technology and holds a special future.

“Robotics isn’t something you see just in movies anymore, or something used for the military,” Rockefeller observed.  “Robots are a part of our daily lives.”  After visiting the Toyota Motor Company plant in Buffalo, WV earlier in the week, Rockefeller continued his tour with the visit and roundtable discussion at BSC.

BSC student Mike Sumrall talked about the wide range of technology-based career options that have opened for him because of his experience as a member of the robotics team.  “We learn how to solve problems,” he explained.  “If you can solve problems, that’s a skill that will open doors for you in a lot of fields.”  Students Matt Adkins and Robbie Martin also took part in the discussion as part of a panel.

In response to the Senator’s question about what cultivates students’ interest in science/technology/engineering/math (STEM) education, Dr. Robert Riggins (BSC Electrical Engineering Technology Professor) said, “The ‘experiential light bulb’ motivates the young to get into stem.”  Each year, BSC students design small autonomous vehicles—battle-bots—that are pitted against each other in a tabletop competition, as an audience of area public and home school students watch.  Then, the young students are invited to hold the battle-bots and ask questions.

“Education is largely about learning how to learn, then applying that knowledge to battle problems,” added Jack Howard, Owner of Nexus Terra, LLC and developer of spatial positioning systems and remote data collection devices.  Mark Myers, Fenner Dunlap Director of Systems Software and Scanning Services also participated in the roundtable discussion.

The program attracted representatives from the NASA Independent Verification & Validation Center, TechConnect West Virginia, the WVU-NASA Robotic Arm Program, Robert C. Byrd Institute of Flexible Manufacturing, and the West Virginia Angel Investor Network.