Large turnout for robotics expo requires 'all hands on deck'

Large turnout for robotics expo requires 'all hands on deck'

Calendar Icon Mar 17, 2015      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed RSS

Daryl Dodoo, a junior computer engineering major, explains how to work the controls of a robot to 9-year-old Mia Vogel during the Nebraska Robotics Expo on Feb. 21 at the Strategic Air Command Museum.
Daryl Dodoo, a junior computer engineering major, explains how to work the controls of a robot to 9-year-old Mia Vogel during the Nebraska Robotics Expo on Feb. 21 at the Strategic Air Command Museum.
With a largernumber of competitors scheduled to take part in the 2015 Nebraska Robotics Expo & CEENBoT Robotics Showcase, a larger group of engineering student volunteers helped make the event run smoothly.

A total of 128 teams, comprised of roughly 1,000 students and teachers from area elementary, middle and high schools, competed in the expo on Feb. 21 at the Strategic Air Command Museum near Ashland. For the day, the museum reported 2,421 visitors.

With such a large turnout, Alisa Gilmore, the event coordinator and an associate professor of practice in electrical and computer engineering, said at least 65 student volunteers from the College of Engineering were needed.

"It really was all hands on deck," Gilmore said. "This is a very large event every year, combining two competitions at one venue – First Lego League Competition and the CEENBoT Robotics Showcase. There is a great deal of set up needed. This year the number of volunteers we needed and the number we had were a little higher than usual."

Many of the student volunteers are freshmen, Gilmore said, and a majority of those come from a seminar class that includes a requirement for volunteer service work hours. The students helped set up more than 800 tables and chairs in addition to competition arenas the day before, then served as judges the day of event and assisted staff throughout the day.

The help of the student volunteers was essential to run the robot competition, which included four CEENBoT Showcase challenges based on the theme “Robots in Space” and a CEENBoT games area that allowed spectators to operate robots in seven different challenges.


In addition, students from UNL's IEEE chapter sold snacks to raise money for group projects. Plus there were nearly 20 booths on the mezzanine where spectators could get hands-on experience with other STEM opportunities – such as robotics surgery, a maker group and other engineering fields.

With a bigger crowd of non-competitors at the expo, Gilmore said, the event was a great success.

"We scheduled the event right at the beginning of E-Week to serve as a kickoff to engage participants as well as visitors in opportunities to get involved in STEM," Gilmore said. "We are so grateful for the partnership with the museum. Their staff really helps us out for two straight days and they draw a lot of folks out there. It really is a place where anyone can get a lot out of this experience."