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Robotics event exhibits Hofstra engineering programs

Engineering skills were put to the test as approximately 40 students from Nassau and Suffolk County participated in a robotics competition. On Saturday, Dec. 1, teams participated in the Toy Adaptation Project at Hofstra as part of an annual event titled the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition. 

The event was a collaboration with the School-Business Partnership of Long Island, Inc. (SBPLI) and Hofstra’s Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Saturday’s outreach program gave both current and prospective students the chance to get to know Hofstra’s engineering professors and help improve toys for individuals with disabilities. 

“Hofstra has hosted our Robotics competition annually, so we were brainstorming on how we could showcase [the] Hofstra University engineering program to the FIRST Robotics students,” said Jeffrey Stern, board member of SBPLI. “We decided to hold this joint event spotlighting Hofstra.” 

The event began with a presentation by Saryn Goldberg, a mechanical engineering professor. Her presentation provided an overview of engineering, specifically explaining the types of engineering while introducing professors and programs that the University provides to undergraduate engineering students. Among the opportunities highlighted were the co-op program and the Advanced Summer Program in Research (ASPiRe).

“A lot of engineering programs have both an undergraduate and a graduate program. If there is a graduate program, that means faculty spends a big chunk of their time training their graduate students. That is not what happens here,” Goldberg said. “We don’t have graduate students, so all of our time and attention is focused on undergraduate students.” 

The small school size is appealing to many potential undergraduate students. “I really like how it is only the teachers teaching and not the [teacher’s assistant], so I get to see my teachers a lot more,” said Christian Stilwagen, a member of Team 263 at Saturday’s event and a senior at Sachem High School North. “The smaller class sizes give me more one-on-one attention, which helps me learn better.” 

Professor Lynn Albers of the engineering department, presented the Toy Adaptation Project, which was started by Ohio State University. Members of the Society of Women Engineers volunteered to help the robotics students understand how to rewire the toys.

“There are a bunch of robots – toys, basically – and they are really hard to play with. They are wiring it so that just with one button ... it comes on and it comes off. It is for children with disabilities,” said Aishu Gandhi, a junior mechanical engineering major. 

“They are [also] rewiring and using soldering techniques to put the wires together,” Gandhi said. 

Soldering is the process of joining wires together by melting solder around the connection.

The program provides students that are interested in the field of engineering an opportunity to get involved and learn skills that they can carry on to their respective future careers. 

“There is a lot more to being a good engineer than being able to solve a math problem,” Goldberg said. 

“I think that it will be helpful,” said Megan Richards, a sophomore civil engineering major. 

“They can use these skills not only in their FIRST Robotics teams, but also in other areas of engineering that they may have in their high school classes and eventually into their college years.”

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