Robotics Detection

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Students interested in pursuing a career in engineering or technology need look no further than Copiah-Lincoln Community College, as a group of students and faculty are building an underwater robot to enter in an international competition.

     Co-Lin physics instructor Kevin McKone is one of the leaders of the group, along with Carey Williamson.

     McKone said the program started in September of 2011, with the competition coming up in late June.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

     The competition will feature teams working on a variety of tasks while a robot is submerged in a pool. This is based on the real-world use of many robots.

     “There are a lot of sunken ships at the bottom of the ocean currently leaking fuel,” said McKone. “That’s a problem that will need to be addressed in the future and is the basis of the competition. Robots are used to do a variety of things underwater, most commonly with offshore oil wells.”

     The team at Co-Lin is the only team from Mississippi, Louisiana or Alabama.

     Co-Lin’s program has 14 students and several faculty advisers working on the robot. The group has members from the vocational technology and the traditional college portions of campus.

     “It’s great that this project has brought both sides of the college together,” said McKone. “Some students may have never ventured into different parts of campus if it wasn’t for working on the robot.”

     The competition calls for more than just activities with the robot. Requirements brought in help from other parts of the college are giving the students an opportunity to see different sides of the robot business.

     The team had to come up with a business plan as part of the project for how their robot would be used. This brought in help from Richard Baker, a business instructor at Co-Lin.

     Students also had to write a 20-page report of what they’ve done on the project, which called for help from English teacher Nicole Donald.

     The robot has four thrusters, which allow it to move in every direction. Part of the competition will call for the robot to navigate a debris field looking for metal, meaning the robot will have to have a metal detector on it.

     McKone said the design has come together well.

     “I’m very happy with our design,” he said. “I think what we put together will compete very well.”

     A key feature of the competition is not the robots itself, but what the robots and teams bring in.

     “A lot of companies come to the competition, and have been known to hire people on the spot,” he said.

     McKone said the students have been instrumental in working with the robot.

     “The kids have just been outstanding,” he said. “We hope this brings some kids to Co-Lin. Recruiting kids to science and technology is not easy, but this is interesting.”

     Many of the jobs in the robotics field are in the South, particularly south Louisiana, according to McKone. Many companies that specialize in deep-sea operations, including some that helped in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response are based there. McKone said that makes it natural for students from this area to take jobs close by.

     “It makes for a great opportunity for our students,” he said.

     McKone said the robotics program will continue in the future at Co-Lin.

     “I just need a little break after we finish this year,” McKone said with a laugh.