Student Spotlight: Lucy Lou brings math and engineering to life
02.03.2015 | By Rob Vanya
San Jacinto College math and engineering professor Nate Wiggins, left, and student Jeremy Penny test “Lucy Lou” a humanoid robotics device in the College’s computer lab. Penny helped to build and program the device, along with other San Jacinto College students. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.
Humanoid robotics device a star of the computer lab
San Jacinto College students created a life-like humanoid robotics device and affectionately dubbed her “Lucy Lou.” She lives in the College’s computer lab, and sometimes accompanies faculty and students on educational field trips.
QUESTION: Are you really a student at San Jacinto College?
LUCY LOU: Yes and no.
Q: What do you mean?
LL: Technically (pun intended) I am not a student. And yet in many ways I am a lot like a student. I am in class with students. I respond to gestures. I respond to audio commands. I collaborate with students on educational projects. I help faculty and students make cool presentations on field trips. And Nate often refers to me as his computer lab assistant.
Q: Who is Nate?
LL: Nate Wiggins. He is one of the College’ awesome engineering and math professors. Do you know why I call the College’s professors awesome?
Q: Tell me.
LL: Because they use robotic devices like me in a hands-on approach that gets students actively engaged in education. Calculus and computer programming become relevant and useful. They programmed me so that I can do things like push-ups and handstands and breakdance moves. Is that cool or what?
Q: Way cool. So, why did you choose San Jacinto College?
LL: Actually San Jacinto College chose me. Jeremy Penny and Darby Macha, two really sharp San Jacinto College students, built me from scratch and programmed me for movement and to respond to gestures and audio commands. Jeremy and Darby collaborated with Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) students during the project.
Q: What is Upward Bound Math and Science?
LL: UBMS is a partnership between San Jacinto College and local high schools. UBMS students attend workshops at the College, where College faculty and students help the young students recognize and develop their potential to excel in math and science. Many UBMS students then go on to pursue college degrees in math and science. It’s all part of San Jacinto College’s efforts to promote STEM education.
Q: What does STEM signify?
LL: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. San Jacinto College is so involved in STEM initiatives that the College has it’s own STEM Council. Check it out at http://www.sanjac.edu/stem-council.
Q: So, technically you are not a student, but you really help students, so I can see why you could be considered a lab assistant, right?
LL: You got it. Like I said, I try to make learning complex math and engineering concepts interesting and fun.
Q: Wait a minute. That’s an oxymoron. Can there really be a connection between “fun and interesting” and “math and engineering?”
LL: Absolutely. For example, when Jeremy, Darby, and UBMS students created me, they learned a lot about some heavy-duty math, engineering, computer programming concepts, such as kinematics and calculus. And any time I do push-ups or bust out some cool break-dance moves, it’s only because students have learned Java, C#, and other proprietary programming language such as Robotis.
Q: Well, thanks Lucy for your time, and keep up the good work.
LL: You are welcome. If you will pass your hand before my face, I will demonstrate how I can respond to gestures by bidding you adieu with a bow.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.