Middle school girls say, “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto” after Penn State visit

Robot Dance Off

Middle school girls helped to program “dance moves” for robots designed and built by Penn State engineering students. Music from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” accompanied this particular robot’s moves.

A Godzilla-inspired robot and a lovesick mechanical mouse were among the highlights for two dozen middle school girls visiting Penn State’s College of Engineering on Thursday.

The trip, part of the Women in Engineering Program Outreach Workshop, gave the students a glimpse into what it’s like to be an engineer. The annual event is designed to encourage young girls to consider career opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Gozilla robot gets a helping hand from a student as she steers her creation to knock down a series of buildings during its dance.

Seventh-graders from Philisburg-Osceola Junior High School, eighth-graders from the Grier School and eighth-graders from Park Forest Middle School spent an entire day meeting Penn State engineering students, touring laboratories and working on hands-on projects.

The middle schoolers kicked off the day by teaming with students in the first-year robotics seminar ME 102. Working with undergraduate students, the middle school girls helped to program robots built by the engineers for a robotic “dance off.”

Constructed of Lego Mindstorms NXT robotics kits, the machines’ movements were choreographed with music and in some cases customized to look like a character, such as Godzilla, a mouse or a fish.

During their visit, the students toured the architectural engineering department’s Immersive Construction Laboratory, enjoyed a presentation by the Engineering Ambassadors, took in a pizza lunch with engineering students and designed their own amusement park ride.

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