Mrs. Ross Brown estimates that about 1,300 children participated in ACE this past year. “It is a wonderful program that benefits all of the Beeville children, and the work that Jeanene Jones has done to get these students college credit is amazing,” she says.
As part of the program a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) initiative has been built between the three schools based on robotics. According to Dr. Becky Simonson, computer science professor at CBC, “Robotics and 3-D prototyping are the next big wave in technology. Our students are very lucky to have this program available.”
The ACE robotics program starts with fundamental knowledge and skills that are adaptable to individuals. Starting in June, primary children will learn the basics of construction and working with a variety of kits. Students will progress to using simple tools such as screwdriver, wrenches and volt meters. The more advanced students will develop complex skills such as creating a basic circuit, putting together a gear box, following simple to more complex diagrams and so forth. Dr. Simonson says that students are able to enter at their own level.
At the college, a number of students have never experienced the “hands on” work like following a diagram to build an object. Other students enter with more advanced skills. Dr. Simonson teaches COSC 1309 Intro to Logic/Robotics.
“This class is a leveling class,” she says. “Some students need it to be ready for the Robotics program. Others go right into COSC 1315 Fundamentals of Programming Robotics I.”
This summer, several ACE students are enrolling in Intro to Robots and Robots I at the same time. Jeanene Jones, CBC ACE coordinator, estimates that the robotics classes should be full, and that her program may bring in between 100 and 150 students to the college this summer.
The ACE program provides dual credit opportunities to students as young as high school freshmen; students in high school may earn a Marketable Skills Certificate, Level I/Level II Certificate, an Associate of Science or an Associate of Applied Science. According to Brown, many of her former students will graduate college and high school at the same time thanks to the ACE program. Students completing the program have the knowledge and skill to go to work immediately in good paying jobs, or they are well prepared to enter into university programs in engineering, computer science or other STEM disciplines.
The program is designed based on the field of mechatronics which include mechanics, engineering, electronics and computer programming. By the end of the program, students are able to build a robot prototype from scratch using breadboards, gear boxes, circuit boards, etc. The student builds the prototype using soldering and other necessary tools and equipment. The student then continues to adapt his/her robot and program it to perform various tasks. The program hopes to add a 3-D printer so students can design their own prototypes for the more advanced application.
CBC professors Simonson and Bobby Uzzel have both been certified in robotics from Digipen University in Redmond, Wash. Digipen is a prestigious technical institution that boasts a 100% graduate employment rate at big companies such as Microsoft. Simonson and Uzzel have both completed the Level I and Level II Robotics instructor training. The CBC robotics program covers three semesters to achieve an associates of science computer science degree. Students completing Robots I and Robots II are eligible for a Digipen endorsed certificate.
Robotics classes will be held at the College T building for St. Mary’s students, at A.C. Jones for K-8th graders, and the E. building at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. for the college-level classes. The technology will be showcased at the college on June 20 during the 2nd annual ACE Fashion Show. The public is invited to come out and see all of the styles and robots.