Dancing robots on show in Virginia

ASHBURN, Va. – Robots that dance, play musical instruments and walk up stairs may appear to be characters in a science-fiction novel, but they’re real.

Loudoun County high school students attempted to recreate sensory robotic technology at GW’s Virginia campus on Tuesday.

“A-Mazing Robotics Workshop,” which allowed students to build and program their own self-guided LEGO cars, was one of 12 interactive sessions designed and conducted by GW faculty and graduate students as part of the Science, Technology, and Engineering Day at the Virginia campus. Other activities ranged from analyzing accidents with crash test dummies to learning about wireless Bluetooth technology.

“This day is specifically for students with an interest in science, engineering and technology,” said Joan Ziemba, director of corporate and community relations at the Virginia campus.

Originally scheduled for George Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22, the event was postponed until Tuesday due to poor weather conditions. Now in its second year, University officials and the Loudoun County Public school system’s science coordinators organized the event.

“At the Virginia campus we have a lot of research faculty that are working in very specific areas, and that’s exactly what some of the students are interested in – the hands on, let me touch it, let me see it work, let me make it work experience,” Ziemba said.

One of the sessions, entitled “Build Bridges To Your Feature,” focused on learning about civil engineering, from planning a project to working in a team. The students in the session worked to recreate a 20 foot steel bridge based on a GW student design that won the “best aesthetic” award in a regional bridge competition last year.

“We discussed what kind of workshops the students might have an interest in, based in part on what they’re introducing in the curriculum in the school system and based on what our faculty specializes in,” Ziemba said.

James Boal, a physics teacher at Freedom High School in South Riding, Va., said the experience brought physics to life for his 11 students in attendance at the event.

“I think it gives them an idea of what they can do with physics,” Boal said. “Physics tends to seem very theoretical and dry, and this gives them an idea of how it can all be applied.”

Julia Inyaugo, a high school senior planning on studying biochemistry, said she enjoyed the day.

“The courses I picked were very different, so I got to see each area, like the physics perspective and the pharmacogenomics,” Inyaugo said. “That was fun, looking at DNA. Then going to the crash test was fun too.”

Carolyn Yafuso, a high school senior planning on a career in medicine, said the pharmacogenomics exhibits were most interesting.

“I attended pharmacogenomics and how to design and build circuits. I enjoyed the pharmacogenomics the most because it has a lot to do with biology and that’s the field that I want to enter,” she said. Pharmacogenomics is a branch of pharmacology that deals with the influence genetics have on patients’ responses to prescription drugs.

Yafuso said Building electrical circuits was interesting because my dad does a lot of that so I got to see more of it.”

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