The Robotics Open House at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering celebrated a decade of Los Angeles students meeting cutting-edge research robots.
Taking place during National Robotics Week over April 6-14, the event attracted over 1,100 attendees, over 90 percent of them K-12 students, who toured 15 labs and attended interactive demos of USC robots.
“This is our most popular event,” said Katie Mills, director of Viterbi Adopt-a-School, Adopt-a-Teacher (VAST) program at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “Our goal is to introduce students, teachers, and families to how engineering research is benefiting society.”
One of VAST’s main objectives is to ensure that more underrepresented minorities and girls are interested in robotics and to get kids to understand the research process — especially now that an increasing number of them are interested in pursuing robotics as a college and career path.
The kids got to roam the labs, interact with robots, and ask any questions they had about the robots’ functions. The interactive, hands-on nature of this open house generated a high interest and awareness about coding, computer science, computational thinking, and robotics, and this learning experience exposed students to all their future possibilities. This year, augmented reality, 3-D printing, and machine learning research was more prominent in the research than in previous years, which enabled the visitors to learn that new technologies are always influencing what engineers know and expanding how they help society.
Check out the photo album from the event here.
“It is very exciting to be here because I get to see what I would be doing if I do end up coming to USC and working with robots,” said Gizelle Ramirez, a sixth grader at Florence Nightingale Middle School. “Learning about how much technology has evolved will be a good start for our generation.”
Jonathan Nguyen, another sixth grader at Florence Nightingale Middle School, enjoyed touring USC and learning about the research being done here. “Being here inspires me, and I think it helps me think about my future,” he said. “Maybe I can do this or another career area of engineering.”
Jorge Reyes, a teacher at Florence Nightingale Middle School’s Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) Gifted Magnet Center, a center promoting collaborative real-world project-based learning, has been incorporating robotics and computer science in his courses to expose his students to the field early on.
“We want our sixth graders to come to USC and see it all,” he said, “while they are still energetic and enthusiastic.”
USC Viterbi students conducting the demos at the open house were likewise intrigued by the kids’ curiosity and enthusiasm.
“You sit at a desk and you think about all these problems, and you think no one really cares because it is just you at a desk,” said Chris Denniston, a USC Viterbi computer science major. “I didn’t know about robotics until I was in college, so it is nice for me to say that at least one kid knows what I am doing now, and that it’s a thing.”
This daylong event gave K-12 kids the chance to see many different robots in action and highlighted the exciting work of USC Viterbi’s faculty and students.
“I like this robotics open house! I would enjoy going to more of them,” said Jonathan Martinez, another sixth grader at Florence Nightingale Middle School.