AIKEN — Joshua Jimenez just started building robots and can already see how he could use that knowledge when he’s finished with school and working for a living.
“I’d like to be a teacher, maybe teaching math and science, and this could make it more interesting,” said Joshua, who goes to North Augusta High School.
He and two friends from the school’s robotics program – Jacob Cheshire and Mark Raymond – were among a large group of enthusiasts from area schools who attended a robotics demonstration Tuesday as part of a Nuclear Science Week celebration at the new Savannah River Site Museum. The demonstrations and a display of robots used to do work too hazardous for humans at SRS will continue through Thursday.
Jacob, a senior in his third year of building robots, said it has helped him learn engineering techniques and design.
He showed off a robot designed to play a game that involves picking up and shooting wiffle balls.
Another North Augusta High student, Nicholas Maroney, demonstrated a robot that could carry a plastic pail full of trick-or-treat candy.
“Every Halloween, we go to the Kroc Center and have it give candy to the kids,” he said.
What the students learn building their robots and competing against others in games testing their performance is also building a pipeline of future job candidates for companies like Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, said Jane Monroe, a North Augusta High School teacher. Monroe founded Clarke and Concordia Engineering and Technology, a nonprofit that has created a growing network of robotics clubs at schools in the Augusta-Aiken area, from elementary through high school.
That network reaches as far as Jefferson County, which brought 35 middle school students to the event.
The younger students are tasked with solving a “real world problem.” This year, the problem must involve using, transporting or cleaning water.
Two 12-year-olds from Louisville Middle School – Vea Lopez and Bonnie Wheeler – came up with an idea to help people conserve, or at least not waste, water in their houses: Put a sensor in the pipes that would let people know how much water they have used.
If a family knew, for example, they had used 80 percent of their normal monthly water intake in three weeks, they could slow down and avoid going past 100 percent.
Right now, it’s just a concept, said the team’s coach, Beth Haynes, but before the school year is over, the girls will build the sensor. Someday, it might be in houses everywhere.
It’s all music to the ears of Walter Joseph, a retired SRS engineer and director of the museum, which has only been open since April. The SRS robot display is its first major exhibit.
“We thought we’d do robots, and tie it in with the student robotics programs,” Joseph said. “I like to walk through and listen to the kids talking to each other, hearing their ideas surfacing.”