Clemson engineers lend a hand to students programming robotic arms
A group of high school students recently visited Clemson University to learn how to program the robotic arms they built in a dual-enrollment class at Denmark Technical College.
The visit gave the students an opportunity to work with Clemson engineers and to tour campus. The eight students are enrolled in a Denmark Tech mechatronics dual enrollment class and are from Denmark-Olar High School, which is in rural area of South Carolina more than three hours from Clemson.
The full-day visit was aimed at helping develop the nation’s manufacturing workforce, the central mission of the sponsor, Clemson’s Center for Aviation and Automotive Technological Education Using Virtual E-Schools (CA2VES).
For Stephen Mason, the trip was a chance to introduce high school students to his alma mater. He received his Bachelor of Science in engineering technology with a concentration in mechanical and manufacturing in 1986 from Clemson. (The program evolved and became a part of industrial engineering.)
Mason now serves as Denmark Tech’s associate vice president of economic and workforce development.
Like the students under his supervision, Mason arrived at Clemson from a small, rural high school. A large university like Clemson is competitive, he said, but his students can do it.
A Clemson graduate student told the Denmark Tech students that some of his work was the same as what they are doing, Mason said.
“I’m going to make sure to use that tomorrow to remind them, ‘This is the same stuff that you can do, right here that you’re doing now,’” Mason said.
The Denmark Tech students arrived on campus with some basic programming knowledge. Clemson’s faculty members and graduate students helped them take it a step further and learn to write their own commands for the robot to follow, said Stephen Cotton, the instructional design coordinator for CA2VES and its sister organization, the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development.
“This is a small way for us to help develop these students and also showcase engineering opportunities here at Clemson,” he said.
The Denmark Tech students were quiet when they first arrived but soon loosened up, Mason said.
By mid-afternoon, they were working elbow-to-elbow on the robotic arms with Clemson engineers in the Fluor Daniel Engineering Innovation Building.
“The way they are listening and getting involved, I think I’m seeing success right now,” Mason said.
Clemson and Denmark Tech officials are exploring how they might expand the collaboration, potentially making the visit a recurring activity.