The AMSB Social Robotics & Engineering Research Program students had a successful run at the 69th Annual Connecticut Science & Engineering Fair in March, taking home a total of 39 awards. There were over 130 schools, 564 projects and approximately 700 students competing at the fair this year. About 150 students out of the 700 were selected as finalists. Amity sent 21 students to the Fair and 18 were selected as finalists.
Amity’s robotics program began as an after-school offering in 2011. As AMSB Principal Richard Dellinger explained at an April 17 Amity Board of Education meeting, “In 2011 Kevin Berean came to the Amity Board of Education with a request for funding to start a social robotics program at the Bethany middle school. Luckily you gave him the money for that after school program, which has morphed into an elective we offer to eighth graders during the school day.”
The program, which has grown to 28 students from Woodbridge and Bethany, is for students with a strong interest and demonstrated ability in STEM. Students in the program conduct research in robotics and/or engineering and technology and choose projects base on interest.
“Those students with that interest, through this program, have the opportunity to connect theory with practice. What a great idea in education,” Berean says. “This allows our students to develop the deep exposure in the critical areas of engineering, the engineering design process, science and scientific methods. This program also provides students the opportunity to critical connections to the arts and humanities.”
“I also believe this program provides increased college and career readiness, helping with their research and presentation skills as well as academic resilience and problem solving skills. This all leads to increased competitiveness with the college application process, and ultimately brings those 21st century skills that we work so hard to instill in our students,” he said.
Projects have included robots as teachers, printed prosthetics, Write-bot (creating and programming a robot that writes), Temp-bot, (a system that protects children and pets from overheating in cars), and Vision Shoe, for visually impaired individuals.
Shyam Viswanathan, a student in the robotics class said he has learned a lot through the program, particularly that things don’t always work the way we want them to. nHis persistence paid off while he was designing and building the Vision Shoe. “My dad said the Vision Shoe would work,” he joked. “But I continued to work on it because I thought it was possible.”
The Vision Shoe helps the visually impaired navigate environments using the technology of an ultrasonic sensor which sends a signal to a buzzer which buzzes in the user’s ear when there is something in their path. Future plans include making the shoe less bulky and eliminating the wired buzzer. “I think I’ll go with blue tooth,” Viswanathan said.
“We tested the Vision Shoe on an obstacle course and I was able to successfully navigate through this environment with a blindfold on,” he said. He used Arduino programming software for the project.
Students are required to keep a log of what they do each day in a research binder, which includes plan diagrams. The binders are reviewed by judges at fairs and competitions.
Berean said work in his class begins much earlier than school starts as students are charged with researching other projects and coming up with a unique plan for a project that they’ll do in school. “I want them to work on something they’re interested in. I’m so proud of these students and all that they’ve done,” Berean said.
Pictured from L to R: kneeling: Arnav Paliwal, William Livesay, Nikhil Mali, Samuel Green, Kabir Khwaja, Aamnah Malik, Wendy Zhang; Standing L to R: Kevin Berean, Peter Savelyev, Benjamin Lee, Christopher Hill, Jonathan Fischman, Cameron Luciano, Evan Gorelick, Kathleen Inclima, Weiss Yuan. Missing from photo: Shyam Viswanathan, Claire Yuan, and Joshua Feuerstein.