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Drinko Center Sponsored Mentoring Program in Robotics at Local High School

Posted on Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Westminster College's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning sponsored "Transformers: Mentoring through Robotics" for seven eighth-grade students at Laurel High School in New Castle.

The Drinko Center purchased six Lego Mindstorm NXT Robots for the after-school program designed to encourage and build confidence in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).  Westminster ranks first in the nation as the "Best College for Women in STEM," according to

Each week Laurel students were assigned to a team with one or two other students and a Westminster mentor.  Teams competed against one another to solve and complete assigned challenges that covered a variety of programming options.

Teams programmed their robots and learned, through trial and error, that many program changes occurred before the challenges were complete.  Careful thought, reflection, and problem-solving were necessary to program the robots to write words and determine angles; navigate a course and avoid hazards; explore circumference; and use sensors.

Westminster mentors were: Joseph Cappitte, Marissa Cozza, Lydia Hartzell, Amber Hill, Lindsay James, Ashley Kress, Jane Larson, Leisel Martig, and Melanie Perello.  Hartzell and Perello participated in both fall and spring semesters.

Dr. Patrick Krantz, director of the Drinko Center, and Dr. Terri Lenox, associate professor and chair of Westminster's Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, worked with Laurel's Susan Miller, assistant to the superintendent, and Paula Lenox, librarian and media specialist, to set up the program.

"The Laurel students have made great progress while working with the robots," said Katie Gray, program coordinator and Pennsylvania Campus Compact Volunteer in Service to America in the Drinko Center.  "Their math scores and class participation have both increased, along with their problem-solving and critical thinking skills."

Contact Gray at (724) 946-7249 or email for additional information on the robotics mentoring program.

The Drinko Center for Experiential Learning was created to enrich undergraduate education at Westminster through advancing world-class teaching as well as by participating in collaborations that address community and regional needs including strengthening K-12 education.  The Undergraduate Research Initiative provides funding for students to conduct research and to present their research at regional and national conferences.  Visit the Drinko Center website for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.

Melanie Perello (r) and Laurel student program a robot
Floor diagram for robot navigation