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Fairmont State’s Robotics Club Gears Up for a New Semester

Fairmont+State%E2%80%99s+Robotics+Club+Gears+Up+for+a+New+Semester

When it was founded last year, Fairmont State University’s Robotics Club started out with “little more than some screws” and some very dedicated students, the team’s faculty advisor, Electronics Engineering Professor Musat Crihalmeanu says. He could not be more impressed by what the club has accomplished in such a short span and is looking forward to another exciting year, as are the club’s new and returning members.  

This multidisciplinary organization provides ideal opportunities to gain hands-on experience for computer science, mathematics, and engineering majors, but anyone of any major can join. The club is eagerly seeking new members and provides an innovative atmosphere to talk to people with similar interests, while gaining technical experience. Professor Musat, as his students call him, says the club needs creative individuals who are focused and engaged in the club’s projects, as teamwork is essential for success in competitions. 

The Robotics Club builds robots not only for fun, but to compete in tournaments through VEX Robotics, the world’s largest robotics competition league for students ranging from the elementary school to university level.  

“Smaller competitions between local universities lead to the World Championship, where universities from all over the world compete,” Arrington Bucklew, the club’s newly elected President, a senior Electronics Engineering major, told me. FSU’s Robotics Club attended the World Championship in Dallas, Texas last year. Schools not only put their best robots forward in competition but represented their home countries with elaborately decorated booths and traditional fashions from their cultures. Professor Musat said it was a very rewarding experience. 

Students at the VEX World Championship.

The competitions take place on a field where two teams of robots, designated Red team and Blue team, earn points by throwing yellow rubber disks into a basket. The disks are scattered over the field at the start of the play, so the robots must be able to scoop them up, load them into position, and launch them with a powerful throwing arm. The team is awarded five points for each goal and two points for getting the disk in an area near the goal. There are two phases of competition: Driver Controlled Mode, where a team member pilots the robot using a remote control that resembles a PlayStation controller, and Autonomous Mode, where the robot must act on its own based on its programming. Autonomous Mode is especially challenging.  

“Our robots are designed, built, programmed, and driven all by students,” says Arrington. “There is a special level of satisfaction when something you created from the ground up can outperform another creation.” The team must also test and perfect every aspect of the robot. The competition includes a pre-tournament inspection and several rigorous rounds of qualification. Building robots allows students to learn about sensors, pneumatics, hydraulics, and microcontrollers—the small computers that act as the decision-making “brain” of the robot.  

The Robotics Club represents an excellent opportunity for fun academic enrichment for all students. The club is sponsored by NASA’s Katherine Johnson IV&V Facility through the Education Resource Center. The ERC is a grant funded institution that supports Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in West Virginia through robotics tournaments for all ages and many other programs. NASA has been an immensely helpful resource for the organization, providing the team with tools, hardware, and a 3D printer to print custom parts, as well as mentorship from NASA Robotics Outreach Specialists.  

The club has some exciting and ambitious plans for this semester. First on the agenda is to become a Registered Student Organization. “Last year was our first year reviving the robotics club here at Fairmont State and we didn’t have enough team members to become a student organization. This semester, we are planning to become an official school affiliated club,” says Arrington. “I am glad to announce that we have recently acquired some new, eager members.” 

Elections for officers were held on Monday, September 11 at the regular meeting. The officers comprise: President Arrington Bucklew, Vice President Jacob Bonner, Treasurer Morgan Underwood, and Secretary Kaitlyn Nyce. Once the organization is officially recognized as a student organization they will decide on a new team name, logo, and shirts for competition, and seek new sponsorships in the community.  

Meetings are held weekly at 4:00 pm in the robotics lab, Room 321 in Wallman Hall. Those interested are welcome to stop in, ask questions, and tour the lab. Requirements are a 2.0 GPA for members and a 2.25 GPA for officers. All majors are welcome to join! To learn more visit https://www.wvrobot.org/ or contact Professor Musat Crihalmeanu through his email at [email protected].  For more information on NASA’s Education Resource Center, visit https://www.nasaivverc.org/ or ask John Holbrook, Robotics Outreach Specialist, who can be often found in Wallman 321 or reached at [email protected].  

“After seeing our success last year, even at such a disadvantage with our small team,” says Arrington, “I believe having more members and a student organization dedicated to these robotics competitions will allow us to excel as a team.” 

Bonus Fun Fact: The word “robotics” was not coined by a scientist or engineer but by Czech science fiction writer Karel Capek and entered common usage after being popularized by another science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, who is credited with its introduction into the English language. 

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About the Contributor
Emily Deal, Staff Reporter
Emily V. Deal is a senior from Ashton, WV, majoring in Electronics Engineering Technology. She seeks to someday publish a novel. Her hobbies including daydreaming, chasing chickens, cosplaying at renaissance faires, and collecting crystals, comic books, preserved animal specimens and wild golf balls fresh from the field.
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