Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Robotics Society Embraces Spirit of Collaboration

The UC Merced Robotics Society, though still in its infancy, has undertaken some ambitious projects — among them an autonomous blimp, a combat robot, a robotic explorer and an autonomous plane. And, true to its founding spirit, most have included help from fellow scientists in other clubs and organizations.

The brainchild of engineering majors Ernesto Mora and Joshua Gonzales, the Robotics Society formed last summer and has grown to include 12 members representing all three schools — Engineering, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.

The club’s origins can be traced back to the spring of 2008, when Mora got involved with the school’s service learning program, now known as Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS). Mora began working with local K-12 students, and the following semester, he became the leader of the program’s robotics sub-team, creating activities that helped students understand the principles of engineering, robotics, programming, magnetism and physics.

Mora and Gonzales created the unofficial “Society of Makers” in the spring of 2009, joining members of the Merced chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers on trips to the Mojave Desert for RocStock and to San Francisco for the RoboGames. That summer, with a supporting cast that included current club president Edward Smith and current secretary Melony Bowling, the group came together. They settled on the less ambiguous “Robotics Society” name in the fall.

“Our primary reason for starting the Robotics Society was that we saw little interest among the established professional engineering associations for supporting projects like ours,” Gonzales said. “Furthermore, we wanted to create an organization that was open to all schools and disciplines, and not limited to engineering.”