SUNY Canton using Lego robots to monitor campus building
Saturday, March 31, 2012 - 8:23 am

CANTON -- Students are building robots out of Lego blocks to monitor the SUNY Canton 's Nevaldine Technology Center.

Students are working with Lego-Mindstorm NXT 2.0 kits to learn the latest in robotic technology and problem-solving computer programming as part of their SUNY Canton civil and environmental technology majors Alyssa Baker and Darran Raglin build and program a Lego Mindstorm robot.SUNY Canton civil and environmental technology majors Alyssa Baker and Darran Raglin build and program a Lego Mindstorm robot.education in the Canino School of Engineering Technology.

The 12 kits were purchased partially through a SUNY Canton College Foundation Campus Enhancement Award. Students use them to learn about programming interfaces and infrared sensors, according to Robert McClellan, an instructor in the alternative and renewable energy systems program.

"The Lego Mindstorm kits give the students a wonderful platform to develop a problem-solving machine designed to perform a specific task or series of tasks," McClellan said. "This is hands-on learning at its finest, and it's a lot of fun."

Groups of three or four students built their own small automaton, which look similar to the robot "Number 5" from the 1986 movie Short Circuit. The finished machine runssoftware that allows students to issue commands to make their robotic room monitor. It helps students learn logical decision-making.

"Lego Mindstorms are used by researchers and the military in the prototyping process," said Joel M. "Miles" Canino, the grandson of the school of engineering technology namesake from Glastonbury, Conn. "It really adds to the experiential learning opportunities available for students in the engineering technology programs."

Canino and his fiancé, Natalie A. Kurgan of Rocky River, Ohio, transferred to the college in Fall 2011 to pursue their own research in the four-year mechanical engineering technology program. The couple has previous experience with the robotic kits in their own prosthetic limb fabrication research. "It's a challenging process to make the robots perform the complicated series of turns and analyze obstacles," she said.

The Lego kits cost more than $5,000 and were partially funded by the College Foundation following a grant proposal by Daniel J. Miller, an assistant professor in the mechanical engineering technology program. Matthew D. Bullwinkel, an associate professor in the program, redesigned the Mechatronics course (MECH128) to include the new technology.

The SUNY Canton College Foundation awarded approximately $20,000 in funding to unique or innovative programs through Campus Enhancement Awards this academic year. The program is funded through unrestricted donations to the foundation. The goals are to fund innovative or creative projects that will advance student learning opportunities or advance the college's overall mission.