Robotics students play away

November 24, 2015

HCC student Siena Bloomberg and Joseph Scott, 11, prepare their Lego robot for battle at the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club. HCC robotics instructor Armando Pardave, center, watches as Joseph Scott, 11, and Kenny Garcia, 13, prepare their robotics for battle at the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club.

In the practice rounds, 13-year-old Kenny Garcia's Lego robot ruled the Sumo circle, pushing out every challenger, in bout after bout. 

"Geez, Kenny," said 11-year-old Joseph Scott. "Yours is doing some crazy stuff. What's your secret? What makes it so strong?"

"Mine is the heaviest," said Kenny. "It's called 'Death Machine.' It's murdering all the other ones. It's doing its job."

The name of Joe's Lego robot?

"Joey Baby," he said, somewhat timidly, then added, looking at his partner, "We need to do something that is going to destroy Kenny." 

Joe's partner was Siena Bloomberg, from Springfield, an HCC student enrolled in an Introduction to Robotics class. She was one of five HCC students who participated in a Service Learning project this semester at the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club. On four Monday afternoons throughout the semester, instructor Armando Pardave and his students visited the club and taught the boys and girls how to build and program Lego robots. 

"I've always been a computer person," said Bloomberg. Even after some tinkering, Joe's robot couldn't seem to get the best of Kenny's. Nevertheless, he said the class has taught him a lot. 

"I've learned that robots are pretty smart," he said. 

"This is just like the projects we do in our class," said Kenny's partner Dania Lopez, a business administration major from Springfield. "So we're showing them what we do."

The Holyoke Boys and Girls Club serves about 140-150 children in its after-school program. A handful signed up to take a computer class, where they learn how to use programs like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop and receive visits from robotics students at HCC.

"They love it," said Victor Rojas, the club's IT director. "A lot of these kids may be the first from their families to graduate from high school. This gives them a taste of what it's like to take a college class."

This is the sixth year an HCC robotics class has conducted a Service Learning project at the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club. This year, Pardave took over for now retired HCC engineering professor Joseph Stahl.

Rojas said the visits really mean a lot to the kids.

"The most important part is the mentoring," he said, "giving them the opportunity to talk to the students about college, and their aspirations."

To cap the final day of the program, the boys and girls took part in a Sumo robot competition.

Despite its early dominance, Kenny's "Death Machine" was knocked out early, and so was "Joey Baby." 

The winning robot belonged to 9-year-old Orlando Berdecia and his partner, HCC student Hector Toruño, of Amherst.

PHOTOS by CHRIS YURKO: (Left) HCC student Siena Bloomberg and Joseph Scott, 11, prepare their Lego robot for battle at the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club. (Right) HCC robotics instructor Armando Pardave, center, watches as Joseph Scott, 11, and Kenny Garcia, 13, prepare their robotics for battle at the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club. (Thumbnail) Orlando Berdecia, 9, holds his champion Lego robot, as his partner, HCC student Hector Toruno, looks on.

 
 

Holyoke Community College
303 Homestead Ave. Holyoke, MA 01040
413.538.7000