The engineering team designed robots to encourage children to become more active. One robot is a basketball hoop which moves when the player gets close to it, forcing them to chase after it in order to play. The other robot is a mechanized jump rope which rotates in time to music. Courtesy Photo

Robots don’t build themselves; that’s what Cal Poly engineers are for. Friday becomes Saturday morning as members of the Dual Sport Bot team work in a Cal Poly lab, sketching out a suspension system.

A few blocks away, in a garage-turned-workspace, Cal Poly’s Jamm Jumper robotic engineering team gathers around a table, piecing together a gearbox, switch and computer chip.

The Dual Sport Bot and Jamm Jumper teams will travel to Cincinnati today to compete in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Conference.

The teams’ robots are designed to encourage elementary-aged children to be more active outdoors. The teams, both from Cal Poly’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers club, have taken different approaches.

The Dual Sport Bot is a moving, sensor-controlled basketball hoop, and the Jamm Jumper is a mechanized jump rope with an arm that rotates in time to music.

The Dual Sport Bot’s sonar sensors and infrared technology detect anyone who enters a 3-foot radius. Using two 7-inch lawnmower wheels and one pivot wheel, the robot moves away from the player, forcing the child to chase after it in order to shoot.

“As a little, curious kid of this technological era, wouldn’t you be interested in a robot that can run away from you?” said mechanical engineering senior Arturo Ayala-Navarro.

Ayala, computer science junior Jake Muir, mechanical engineering senior Jorge Hernandez, computer engineering senior Mishal Shah and civil engineering junior Saul Fierro make up the Dual Sport Bot team. They spend 15 to 20 hours per week working on the Bot.

Associate professor Christopher Clark has been an invaluable resource and mentor, said the team captain Shah. Clark, director of the Lab for Autonomous and Intelligent Robotics, provided information, reserved a workspace for the team and loaned them a $2,795 Dr. Robot X80, the mobile robot used for the basic hardware and software programming of the Dual Sport Robot.

Although the teams support each other by asking questions and sharing experiences, they remain competitive. Manuel Ureno, captain of the Jamm Jumper team and architectural engineering senior, said the teams usually get along.

“We were friends,” Ureno said. “I mean, we are friends. Well, right now, we’re in competitive mode.”

The Jamm Jumper team consists of Ureno, computer engineering junior Adam Rizkalla, mechanical engineering senior Manuel Carrasco, mechanical engineering junior Jeremy Ramos, civil engineering senior Christina Ruiz and civil engineering junior Stephanie Reveles. The team is focusing on the market for its robot.

The Jamm Jumper targets the growing population of only children and is designed so children do not realize they are exercising, Ureno said.

“With shows like ‘Dancing With the Stars’ so popular, we figured we could integrate music into our product and use the power of music to get kids jumping,” he said.

The teams have taken their robots from concept to creation on a budget of $1,000 per piece in six weeks. They will compete against each other and one other undisclosed finalist in the national competition.

The winning team will leave the competition with $3,000 and, depending on funding, up to $5,000 more to pursue a patent, according to the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers’ website.

Industry insiders may offer to buy any of the top three teams’ ideas and companies will be on the lookout for new talent during the convention, said Esteban Ruiz, a mechanical engineering senior and the first vice president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers club.

The convention is the largest technical and occupational conference for Hispanic engineers in the nation, attracting more than 5,000 engineering professionals, according to the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers’ website.

“In general, Hispanics are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences,” Hernandez said.

The conference is important for both the profession and Hispanics, Fierro said

“It helps companies see there are actually Hispanics trying to better themselves professionally,” Fierro said.

Cal Poly’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers chapter provides a Hispanic group of role models in a predominately white profession, Ruiz said. The club is a supportive community that fosters academic excellence and provides professional guidance, Ruiz said.

Five of the six members of the Jamm Jumper team and four of the five members of the Dual Sport Bot team are the first generation in their families to go to college, Ureno and Shah said.

“Most of us come from humble beginnings,” Ureno said. “We find out that a lot more than a good GPA and college degree are expected. You learn those necessary professional skills in the club.”

This article was written by Aryn Sanderson.

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