First place-winning Alief Early College Robotics Team innovates in HCC Design Lab

Aug 11, 2017

Alief Early College

Whether it’s to lend a cup of sugar or a tool, watch our kids, or to jump start our vehicle, good neighbors can rescue us in times of need. They can make a difference in our lives and positively impact what we do. Just ask the Alief Early College High School STEM Robotics Team and Houston Community College (HCC).

The STEM Robotics team, made up of about 12 boys and girls, prepared for the annual Alief Independent School District (AISD) Underwater Robotics Competition this past spring. Team members planned to build an “outside-the-box” or unique remotely operated vehicle (ROV), utilizing parts made by a 3D printer. Unfortunately, their 3D printer was malfunctioning.  However, with a new design lab within walking distance, the team wasted no time in discovering all of the technology accessible next door at HCC.

“HCC students and the surrounding community have access to a creative space where they can tinker and experiment with some of the most forward-thinking technologies,” said Jordan Carswell, HCC Acting Director of Educational Technology. Carswell developed the Design Lab, better known as the DLab. The lab, a glass room with four HP Sprouts, four 3D printers, two vinyl cutters, and a mini milling machine at the front of HCC’s Alief Hayes campus, offers innovation and experiential learning.

“What’s so nice is that they can use the lab and can learn on their own,” said Dr. Noemi Dimaliwat, professor, mentor, lead coach and STEM sponsor for the AECHS Robotics team. “The students were antsy and looked forward to participating in this competition,” said Dimaliwat.

This year was the team’s second time to participate in the Houston Regional Seaperch Underwater Robotics Scrimmage.  And out of 110 schools, the team placed first. This advanced them to the 2017 National SeaPerch Challenge Regional Competition at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia.

Many of the team members are top in their class, including Bao Kang Ngo, a recent class salutatorian and HCC graduate with an Associate Degree in Science and highest honors. Ngo said, “The project taught me how to apply STEM concepts in the real world and how I can be innovative and creative.”

At the DLab, the team was also able to design team shirts using design software, vinyl printer and cutting machines. “The robotics team designed their logo and I assisted so we could print it onto the competition shirts,” said Bianca Bermudez, HCC Design Lab Coordinator who helped the team navigate through the lab.

Although the robotics team didn’t place in the national competition, the students are already planning next year’s ROV. “We would like to incorporate an underwater camera,” said team member Vinh Tan.

Whatever happens next, the team has already learned some new skills that will help the students going forward.  Looking back on the experience, team member Christina Nguyen said, “The competition helped us work together, solve problems and was even a bonding experience.”

The team is still in need of repairing its 3D printer. If you would like to be a sponsor, contact Dr. Dimaliwat, for more information, NoemiCelerina.Dimaliwat@AliefISD.Net.

For more information about the DLab, visit tech.nwc.hccs.edu/dlab/


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