What's Happening

June 27, 2019

Today, 15 students from the Franklin Area High School went to Carnegie Mellon University for the day. The students, all part of the PA Rural Robotics Initiative, traveled almost 2 hours each way to get a glimpse into some of CMU’s programs and resources.

Organized and supported by CMU’s Mobility21 University Transportation Center and the Robotics Institute, the visit included:

  • A discussion of transportation & technology
  • An introduction to making traffic “smarter”
  • A tour of the NavLab where the students saw and learned about autonomous vehicles
  • A tour of the Field Robotics Center where the students learned more about aerial robotics
  • A networking lunch where the students met and talked with members of the 2019 CMU Robotics Institute Summer Scholars cohort

When asked what she thought of the experience, Grace said “I really enjoyed learning about the autonomous vehicles and our discussions with the summer scholars. Thank you, CMU!”

Tim Heffernan, the Executive Director of the PA Rural Robotics Initiative said “Although geographically Carnegie Mellon isn’t too far from home, sometimes these types of opportunities and institutions seem worlds away to these students. Having the chance to meet the summer scholars and interact with the world’s best in their professions will change how these kids view themselves and their futures. We couldn’t be more excited about, and grateful for, the opportunity that our friends at CMU have provided for these young people. Events like today have a positive impact on our kids and our region.”

In addition to the students and Mr. Heffernan, five chaperones accompanied the group:

  • Mrs. Jill Foys, Northwest Commission, Director
  • Mr. Trenton Moulin, Bridge Builders Community Foundation, Executive Director
  • Mr. William Vonada, Cranberry Area School District, Superintendent
  • Dr. Jody Strausser, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Associate Professor Computer Information Science, PA Rural Robotics 2019 Volunteer of the Year
  • Mr. Albert Abramovic, Venango County Commissioner. He said he was impressed with the day’s program and was grateful for the opportunity to join the students for the day.

One of the Mobility21 UTC’s focus areas is Education & Workforce Development.  Research and technology is only one half of the new mobility equations. The transportation industry is being deluged with disruptive technologies just as its current, aging workforce faces mass retirement. Educating, training and inspiring the currently and next generation of transportation professionals is critical to the success of new technology. Helping coordinate and participate in the visit from the PA Rural Robotics Initiative is one way the Mobility21 UTC is engaging the next generation of transportation professionals.

Learn more:

# # #

In 2018, Franklin Area High School had four lonely VEX robots that students traveled around Pennsylvania and West Virginia with, searching for teams to compete against. Fast-forward to the end of this June and those four robots have 180 new companions right next door. Together they make up the Pennsylvania Rural Robotics Initiative, a consortium of 11 school districts, one technology center, and an intermediate unit that all share a common robotics platform and curriculum. Twenty-five schools, covering five counties, have found like-minded friends in higher education, business and industry, state and local government, non-profits, and regional economic and workforce development that not only support their initiative but help it to thrive.

The Traffic21 and Mobility21 Institute’s leadership team have been trusted advisor since the conception of PA Rural Robotics and continues to look for ways to support their mission. Both faculty and graduate students from the Robotics Institute are working to bring CMU and these young STEM students together. PA Rural Robotics was also excited to find themselves partnered with a team of CMU undergraduate students as part of the 2019 Information Systems Spring Project. The Office of Outreach and Engagement have provided a menu of options that can further the CMU connections as the initiative grows. The most recent Carnegie Mellon connection was with the CMU CS Academy. PA Rural Robotics plans to introduce their member schools to the CS1 course and discuss the potential it could have in expanding computer science offerings within all of the member districts.