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First-year puts love of robots to good use

By Mackenzie Clune
On April 3, 2014

Though there may not be a robotics team at Miami University, that does not mean there are no robots.

Campus is filled with highly qualified students who are interested in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) fields, and somewhere therein lurks robotics.

The Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering assists individual STEM scholars. Among these students is first-year Burke Halderman.

Halderman's interest in robotics began his first year of high school when he toured Miami with Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering professor Robert Setlock.

"While we do not have a robotics team here, the class I take, called Project High Flight, with Bob Setlock, allows me to work on interactive projects," Halderman said.

Setlock is heavily involved in the coordination of the MME K-12 STEM outreach effort. Following his tour with Setlock, Halderman, with the help of a few others, started a robotics team at Eaton High School.

"Bob Setlock is always willing to discuss robotics and engineering extensively," Halderman said. "He has always encouraged me to pursue my interests in mechanical engineering."

Last year, Halderman and three others entered their robot, which successfully shot Frisbees through a goal after climbing a nine-foot pyramid, into a high school competition. The four-member group's robot completed these tasks faster than any other group's, whose average size was around thirty.

"It's the competitiveness that makes these events so rewarding." Halderman said.

Now that Halderman is no longer in high school, he continues to devote his time to help design, build, wire and drive some of the Eaton High School team's robots.

Though there are some collegiate robotics competitions, according to Halderman, there are none that involve robots interacting with each other. Halderman said robot interaction is the most appealing aspect of the field.

Halderman and other select students began working on creating a T-shirt launcher for the University of Cincinnati (UC) last September. They are continuing to develop the project. According to UC student Anthony Ogg, the team will complete the T-shirt launcher by early June.

"The main goal of this project is to develop a robot that can successfully shoot T-shirts, with extreme accuracy at UC events, specifically sport events like football or basketball games," Ogg said.

Budding scholars like Ogg and Halderman said they value the unparalleled creativity and intellect required to succeed in robotics.

"Robotics could be described as the varsity sport of the mind," Halderman said.

Due to his leadership skills, academic achievements and ambition to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering, Halderman was awarded the 2013-2014 Youth Energy Leadership Award.

The 2013-2014 Youth Energy Leadership Award is an exclusive $2500 scholarship, which is funded by Energy Optimizers, USA. It is awarded to talented young adults who are pursue a post-secondary education in a STEM field. Recipients are likely to contribute to the next generation of innovation.

Halderman hopes to work for NASA as an astronaut after spending a fair amount of time in a machine shop to expand his technological experience.

According to Miami first-year Morgan Olszewski, there is great value in STEM-related careers.

"I have a high level of respect for students, like Burke, who are actively involved in the advancement of technology that can better our society," Olszewski said. "It is because of dedicated and passionate minds like his that will truly make a difference in the future."

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