New Robotics Course for High School Students Launches this Fall

TROY — Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) have unveiled a new robotics course, designed to pique the interest of local high school students in the realm of robotics. Starting this fall, students from Questar III STEM high school have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of robotics through this unique course.

The course, which is co-taught by professors from both HVCC and RPI, will grant students the chance to learn how to program robots. Additionally, they will gain practical experience with industrial robotic equipment from Fanuc and Universal Robots.

“Two decades ago, operating these robots would necessitate a Ph.D.,” explained Dean O’Dell, an engineering instructor at HVCC. He believes that after completing this course, high school graduates will have a unique skill set to offer their future employers. This could potentially lead to higher earnings and increase productivity in the Capital Region’s companies.

The pilot course this fall will welcome eleven tenth graders from Questar III STEM high school. The high school, situated on the HVCC campus, allows its students to earn college credits in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects.

Ryan Auger, a high school student set to enroll in the course this fall, expressed his excitement about the opportunity. “To gain the experience, use all the robots, earn college credits, and get a head start in learning about robotics is truly thrilling,” Auger said.

John Wen, the head of RPI’s electrical, computer, and systems engineering department, hopes that the course will make students like Auger more comfortable with robotics. “While it may seem daunting initially, our goal is to help them build confidence and eventually channel their creativity into the field,” Wen said.

Wen also highlighted that the course aims to teach students how to integrate different touch sensors, proximity sensors, and cameras into their programming. Moreover, they will learn valuable coding skills that they can apply creatively in electronics and computers.

Linda Lim, the department chair of computer science and mathematics at HVCC, emphasized that the course does not require any prerequisites, making it accessible even to first-year high schoolers.

For Lim, the course is a personal achievement. “When I began my graduate work at RPI, I took an introductory course in robotics which didn’t involve any actual robotics. If someone had made these robots available back then, it would have been a dream come true,” she said.

Wen noted that many current RPI undergraduates do not get hands-on experience with comparable industrial robots until their junior or senior year. The collaboration between HVCC and RPI on this robotics program catering to high school students is a first, despite their longstanding partnership on joint programs.

“During the pandemic, HVCC significantly enhanced its robotics capability and facilities,” Wen said. “When we visited last year to discuss expanding our collaboration, robotics was an obvious choice for our next venture.” This initiative is set to provide a strong foundation for high schoolers interested in electronics, computers, programming languages, and coding – key skills for future industry leaders.