The members of the Purdue University North Central Robotics Club come from a variety of backgrounds, they have different majors and a range of career aspirations, but they do share a common interest in all that goes in to designing, engineering and creating a working robot.
The club members took on a variety of projects during the past academic year as their knowledge of robotics grew. For example, they worked to devise a line-following robot that does pretty much what its name implies. When perfected, they envision entering it in a line- following competition.
The club also took on a more advanced project and began developing a robot inspired by the Jetsons television show. They’ve already named it Rosie.
The robot will be capable of performing tasks on command. The club envisions putting Rosie to work on campus, perhaps helping out in the campus cafeteria. As club President Jon Wilhelm explained, the cafeteria would prepare a meal for a person on campus. Rosie would be summoned to pick up the food and deliver it to the designated location.
Wilhelm noted that the possibilities for robotics are seemly endless, bounded only by the developer’s imagination.
Robotics can be utilized to aid humans in a number of ways – from performing everyday tasks like those that Rosie may perform, to working on an assembly line to doing tasks that are too dangerous for humans to attempt such as disarming explosives, examining radioactive areas of a nuclear plant or working underwater.
Club Vice President Chris Halcarz, of Valparaiso, said that he’s always been one to take something apart to see how it works, and if possible, improve its performance. He’s putting what he’s learned to work with the club.
“I‘m interested in embedded programming and mobile control,” he explained. Each club member brings a unique strength or interest to the club, which makes it fun for the members.
Treasurer Gerald Chapman enjoys computers and programming. He looks forward to a career in research and development for electronic devices, such as cell phone technology.
Secretary Tori Lunsford, of Hammond, is the lone female and non-engineer in the group. “I joined the club because it was a great opportunity to meet people in other academic fields and to explore the world of robots. It’s nice to be a part of a whole.”
When the group gets together there is constant chatter about robotics. The students have built several robotic devices and each is unique in its function.
The team would like to get their robotics skills to the point that they can begin entering competitions against other schools.
“It would be great to present well-designed robots in competition,” said Lunsford. “We look forward to representing PNC and showing other schools what we are capable of here.”
“Robotics is the way of the future,” said Wilhelm. “I want to be a part of that revolution. We humans are always going to want to use more technology, it’s an exciting field.”
Wilhelm is a member of the Army Reserves and served a deployment to Afghanistan. He was responsible for making sure that “anything electrical worked for the unit. I helped make sure that everyone could do their jobs.”
Robotics “is my passion,” said the club president who enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with the club members and hopes to “train, teach and mentor those interested in engineering design.”