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Autonomous Control conference draws high school students

Students from several area high schools recently participated in the first campus Autonomous Control Conference, organized by graduate student Abe Mishler. Mishler holds an assistantship from the Riverbend Technology Institute.

“The conference was geared towards high school students who are starting to think about college and future opportunities, and we wanted to share with them just how much fun engineering can be,” said Mishler. “Hopefully they'll see the wonderful opportunities available at UT Chattanooga. If they are so inclined, they could stay close to home and compete with the likes of Stanford and Carnegie Mellon. And because the program is relatively new, there are many more ground floor opportunities here than are to be found elsewhere.”

A robotic vehicle with a laptop computer mounted on a mini cart was on display. The high school students learned how difficult it is to write programs for robots, and they had a shot at controlling the robots using computers. Several UTC National Science Foundation scholarship recipients and other undergraduate students interacted with the high school students at the conference, allowing a more relaxed hands-on learning experience.

According to Julie Sanders, recruiter for the College of Engineering and Computer Science, high school teachers were instrumental in student participation.

“Teachers identified students with the interest and aptitude for pursuing a career in computer science or engineering,” Sanders said.

Mishler and a group of UTC students took a multi-disciplinary approach to the 2005 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Grand Challenge competition, creating an entry that prompted judges to make a site visit to UTC last spring. The team designed an unmanned vehicle for use in the desert. Although the vehicle was not selected for the find competition, Mishler felt the team had a lot to share with future computer science and engineering students. With assistance from the Riverbend Technology Institute, the Autonomous Control Conference provided a means for outreach.

“In the Engineering and Computer Science departments, we've been slowly but surely growing a robotics program sponsored in part by the Riverbend Technology Institute, and especially after all of the work we put into the DARPA Grand Challenge, we had quite a bit we knew we could share with the community,” Mishler said.

For more information, contact Julie Sanders or call her at (423)425-4020.

October 14, 2005

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