Mount Union engineering freshmen share Kisses, robots with Reilly students


Staff Writer

SALEM – A group of freshmen engineering students from the University of Mount Union shared Hershey’s Kisses via robots Wednesday, showing Reilly fourth graders how they can use math, a little ingenuity and still have fun.

“I was hoping to maybe inspire them to look into engineering and mathematics – inspire their imaginations,” fourth grade language arts teacher Sarah Burtnett said.

Burtnett’s sister, Stacy Kent, was one of the five Mount Union students who visited with Reilly Elementary students, along with the robots they constructed as a project for Introduction to Engineering Analysis and Design.

Kent had shown Burtnett her robot and Burtnett said she thought it was really cool and right away started thinking of how she could incorporate the project into the lesson plans for the fourth graders.

She arranged for the visit and a video taping of the Mount Union students afterwards discussing the project. She plans to have her students write thank-you letters to the future engineers.

“I think it’s great,” Reilly Principal Cindy Viscounte said.

Kent was accompanied by A.J. Hampton, who’s also a receiver on the Purple Raiders football team, Sam Creque, Gretchen Dietz and Mikaela Dombrowski, who’s a catcher on the softball team. All five brought their robots and showed what they can do.

According to Joni Poorbaugh, Assistant Director of Marketing at the university, this was the first of two projects for the engineering class taught by Dr. Hans Tritico, assistant professor of engineering. As a way to introduce the students to computer programming logic, they were assigned to “design and program a robot that would hand out Hershey’s Kisses on Valentine’s Day.”

The students worked in teams and they’ll continue to work in teams for the second project of the semester, which they’re picking themselves. Some will build low budget model drag racing cars from weed trimmers. Other projects include helping to restore the downtown fountain in East Liverpool and designing and building a pedestrian bridge at Mount Union’s Huston-Brumbaugh Nature Center.

Dietz, a native of East Liverpool, said she’ll be working on the fountain project. Kent said there’s also a group doing a chicken coop and Creque said another group plans to build a tree house.

For the robot, the students were given kits, which included Legos, and prototypical plans.

“Our project was to build a prototype robot and then put our own twist on it,” Hampton said.

They worked on them for two and a half weeks. He said he learned team-working skills and computer programming. The students used a variety of methods to control their creations, from buttons on the robots to controllers or using cell phones.

Creque explained that a program came with the kits to download into their computers, but they had to tell the motor how long to run and other information to make the robots work, which took some trial and error .

Dombrowski said the project was both fun and interesting. For advice for young students interested in engineering, she said they need to pay attention in science and math.

Hampton said they should also learn good study habits now so they’ll be ready when they go to college.