Students TEAM Up

03/29/2009
By From the Lowell Sun

LOWELL -- High-school juniors and seniors with advanced skills in Math, Science and Technology, and who are enrolled in the TEAMS Academy at UMass Lowell, built and programmed robots that competed in the program's recent annual Egg Hunt Competition.

The winning team consisted of Mark Page of Littleton and Johnson Pham of Lowell. Runners-up were Rachel Wilk of Tewksbury and Uyhor Eav of Lowell.

They competed against 15 other pairs representing 11 high schools from around the region, including Andover, Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Lawrence, Littleton, Lowell, Methuen, North Reading and Tyngsboro.

Other teams that made it to the semifinals were Andrew Osborne of Andover and Phil Bailey of Chelmsford, and Anthony Spencer of Billerica and Nikhil Nathwani of Chelmsford. Other top teams included Amelia Hunt of Andover and George Murphy of Dracut, and Jennifer Shields of North Reading and Jennifer Mann of Chelmsford.

The team of Jacob Cohen of Methuen and David Couto of Chelmsford won a special design award for incorporating a vacuum cleaner and egg sorter into their robot.

The students, enrolled in the Interactive Robotics class at UMass Lowell, applied the skills they learned during the semester-long course to design, build and program iRobot Create robots that could perform complex tasks.

In the multifaceted, highly competitive project, students competed head-to-head with their robots to hunt and capture plastic eggs using electronic sensors

and creative, interactive robotic features designed by students.
 
After several rounds of competition, the two highest-scoring robots competed in the finals.

"The atmosphere was super-charged," said Donald Rhine, TEAMS Academy director. "Although these students had developed strong friendships, there was serious competition on the playing field."

The TEAMS Academy, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program at UMass Lowell, gives high-school students from across the region the opportunity to explore various career fields as they take creative college courses specially designed for advanced students.

"Before joining the TEAMS Academy, only two or three of these students had any computer programming background, and none had worked with robotics," Rhine said. "It is simply amazing to see how skillful these high-school juniors and seniors have become in a short period of time. This year's students have really set a high bar for next year's group."

Enrollment in the program is free. The entry-level college courses help develop students' existing science, technology, engineering and math skills in both classroom and laboratory environments. Students participate in hands-on, project-based components that take advantage of the extensive laboratory resources at UMass Lowell.

Applications for the 2009-2010 TEAMS program, which will include courses in Environmental Biology, Alternative Energy, Assistive Technology and Electronics, Robotics, and Baseball Bat Engineering and Design, are available at http://gse.uml.edu/academy.