Group involved with local high school stu­dents as part of national pro­gram to increase interest in sci­ence and tech­nology at younger age

Feb­ruary 21, 2008 –Over the past six weeks, a team of North­eastern Uni­ver­sity engi­neering stu­dents have been vol­un­teering their time to help high school stu­dents design and build a robot. Last Friday, the team unveiled their robot, which will com­pete in a regional con­test against 50 other robots in March. The Nutrons, the North­eastern team that spon­sors this project, is a group of engi­neering and high school stu­dents that are inter­ested in sci­ence and tech­nology, and each year, they build a robot designed to over­come spe­cific obsta­cles during the competition.

This project is a unique way to encourage young stu­dents to pursue their inter­ests in sci­ence and tech­nology, and the guid­ance from the North­eastern engi­neering stu­dents helps them see the project from start to finish.

Nutrons, the FIRST Robotics team at North­eastern, was founded in 1998 by a Col­lege of Engi­neering freshman, and over the years, the team has won both regional and national awards for their robots. FIRST (For the Inspi­ra­tion and Recog­ni­tion of Sci­ence and Tech­nology) is the national orga­ni­za­tion that started pro­moting robot com­pe­ti­tions across the country to help engage high school stu­dents in engi­neering and technology.

When the annual com­pe­ti­tion begins, each team is given the same set of mate­rials – and rules – which they use to build the robot. The This year, fif­teen stu­dents from Boston Latin, Catholic Memo­rial and Brook­line High School trav­eled to North­eastern after school to work with ten ded­i­cated engi­neering stu­dents, under the super­vi­sion of fac­ulty advisor Don Goldth­waite, to design and con­struct a robot.

Starting with a com­puter pro­gram, the stu­dents design a model that can meet the spe­cific needs of the chal­lenge, and from there, they bring their design to life by building their robot. The chal­lenge this year was to build a robot that could launch a 10-​​pound ball over sev­eral beams to score points during a 2:15 minute match. The robot will be con­trolled by the high school stu­dents during the com­pe­ti­tion, and as a team, they will work their way through the course and score as many points as pos­sible during the allotted time.

Brandon Holley, a mechan­ical engi­neering stu­dent at North­eastern, was involved with FIRST in high school and was eager to join the Nutrons when he started as a freshman. “My favorite part about being involved with Nutrons is that I get to give back what was given to me in high school – a learning expe­ri­ence that was both fun and chal­lenging,” said Holley. And while the project can require some long hours, the team works together to make it as fun as possible.

When the Nutrons were founded, they were one of the only Boston-​​area FIRST teams that par­tic­i­pated in the robotics com­pe­ti­tions. Today, there are 51 Boston-​​area teams that will com­pete in the Boston­FIRST Robotics com­pe­ti­tion, which will be held on March 28–29, 2008 on the Boston Uni­ver­sity campus. More than 1,000 stu­dents are expected to attend, and at last years’ regional com­pe­ti­tion, the Nutrons took first place.

In addi­tion to com­peting with the local teams, the Nutrons and North­eastern Uni­ver­sity have been helping the teams that might not have all of the nec­es­sary resources to com­plete the robot project, pro­moting an envi­ron­ment of sup­port and assis­tance to enhance the expe­ri­ence of others in the com­pe­ti­tion. The “Ask an Engi­neer” pro­gram was cre­ated by the Nutrons last year to respond to ques­tions and con­cerns from local teams who can email their ques­tions and get a response within 24 hours from a North­eastern engi­neering stu­dent. “Part of this com­pe­ti­tion is working together, and because not all teams have the resources that North­eastern has, we are more than willing to help other teams so that they have a chance to com­pete,” said Goldthwaite.

Jes­sica Wu, who will grad­uate from Boston Latin in 2010, is very inter­ested in tech­nology and after seeing the Nutrons com­pete last year, she decided to join. “The best part about being on the team is that I get hands-​​on expe­ri­ence with machining and pro­gram­ming, and I know that the skills I develop here will help my career,” said Wu, who hopes to embark on a career in archi­tec­tural engineering.

For more infor­ma­tion about the Nutrons and their upcoming com­pe­ti­tion, please con­tact Jenny Eriksen at (617) 373‑2802 or via email at j.​eriksen@​neu.​edu.

About North­eastern

Founded in 1898, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity is a pri­vate research uni­ver­sity located in the heart of Boston. North­eastern is a leader in inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research, urban engage­ment, and the inte­gra­tion of class­room learning with real-​​world expe­ri­ence. The university’s dis­tinc­tive coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion pro­gram, where stu­dents alter­nate semes­ters of full-​​time study with semes­ters of paid work in fields rel­e­vant to their pro­fes­sional inter­ests and major, is one of the largest and most inno­v­a­tive in the world. The Uni­ver­sity offers a com­pre­hen­sive range of under­grad­uate and grad­uate pro­grams leading to degrees through the doc­torate in six under­grad­uate col­leges, eight grad­uate schools, and two part-​​time divi­sions. For more infor­ma­tion, please visit www​.north​eastern​.edu.