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News Success in robotics

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UD faculty and alumni coach high school team in national competition
Group of students and mentors

​Mentors for the Wilmington-based high school robotics team Miracle Workerz included faculty and alumni from UD.

Two faculty members from the Department of Mathematical Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences and two alumni from the College of Engineering mentored a robotics team based in Wilmington, Delaware, that made it all the way to a national competition.

The organization For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology (FIRST), which encourages students in kindergarten through 12th grade to explore and pursue STEM fields, holds the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) each year. The competition asks high school students to design, build, power and program robots to compete in a game that is released each January.

The Miracle Workerz are an FRC team based in Wilmington that commonly goes by MOE—short for Miracles of Engineering, a tribute to their founding sponsor, DuPont—and consists of about 40 students from various local high schools. Mentors include Lou Rossi, professor and chair of UD's Department of Mathematical Sciences; Suzanne Burcat, an adjunct instructor in the department; Christy Bugher, who received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from UD in 2016 and is now working on her master’s degree; and Brigid Deely, who also received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 2016 and works for Pennoni Associates Inc.

The Miracle Workerz team was founded in 1999 and has had some great successes, including winning the Championship Chairman’s Award in 2007, but 2019 started out rocky. In their first district competition, held March 8-10, the team lost in the quarterfinals and ranked 14th out of 32 teams. However, in the second district competition, held March 22-24, the team turned things around and brought up their ranking to No. 1 out of 35 teams.

In the Mid-Atlantic District Championship, April 4-6, the team finished ninth out of 60—a performance that qualified them for the worldwide FIRST Championship, which was held in Detroit, Michigan, from April 24-27.

Robotics programs help kids learn engineering and computer programming, gain confidence in their problem-solving skills and enhance their interest in engineering careers, research suggests.

For the FIRST competition, students learn mechanics, programming, construction, how to use engineering software such as SolidWorks and how to adapt and learn new skills.

Bugher didn’t have a lot of exposure to engineering and the opportunities it provides when she was in high school, she said. She wants to inspire young students, especially young women, who are underrepresented in engineering, to pursue the field.

“I think it’s beneficial for students to see that, as a young engineer, I show up each day willing to work and willing to learn,” she said. “In addition, as a female in an industry historically dominated by men, it’s important for all students to see women working and pursuing advanced degrees in engineering and STEM.”

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Two faculty members in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and two alumni from the College of Engineering helped mentor a successful high school robotics team.

​Two faculty members in the Department of Mathematical Sciences and two alumni from the College of Engineering helped mentor a successful high school robotics team in a national competition.

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