Beyond SciFi: Master’s students building robots on campus — By Emily Rader

By 9:30 p.m., the end of class had come on the first night of professor Eric Mack’s Introduction to Robotics course with hardly any notice from the students. The 17 computer science majors were so engaged in the course that to stay late to work on test robots in the lab was a no-brainer.

The opportunity to learn about robot application programming, make functioning robots and battle in robot competitions might intrigue anyone. However, a robotics class that simultaneously trains students in problem-solving and life skills from a biblical perspective makes this class unique to The Master’s College.

“My motivation for this course really is to teach students critical thinking and problem solving while preparing them for practical life skills,” Mack said. “The robotics is a fantastic way to get all of them to put that into action.”

Mack does this by helping students build their own robots, create a flowchart of how it was done, test their creations in an autonomous competition and then analyze and communicate what happened.

“In this day an age, its often not what you know that makes the difference, its your ability to communicate what you know” Mack said. “That’s a big part of the class.”

The course began after Mack’s two daughters presented their robotics interests to a computer science class taught by CIS professor John Eikemeyer in 2010. Inspired by their father, the girls had a keen interest in robotics and were experienced tournament competitors. Their passion was contagious, sparking the interest of the computer science department, and eventually leading to the first Introduction to Robotics course in 2012.

Since then, the course has drawn the interest of many students. It is not uncommon for students to come to class and stay late to work on their projects. In fact, this has become the routine.

Others have also noticed the tact of these TMC students. For the last eight years, the FIRST Robotics Championship help at Legoland has requested TMC student adjudicators almost exclusively, giving students the opportunity to reinvest the skills they have learned in those younger than themselves.

The course aids the future with competent people who are able to create, analyze and communicate with others in the workforce, regardless of what field students go into. Teaching robotics is a great help to developing skills relevant to all facets of life.

Mack hopes to continue teaching the class on a more regular basis to a broader audience of majors.

For more information on the robotics course visit: www.masters.edu/robotics

By Emily Rader

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