Tag Archives: middle school

Rest, Reflection, and Robotics

Alvin Chaney

Alvin Chaney,
Junior, Industrial & Systems Engineering

Athens, OH 18 March 2019

This Spring Break was a great time to rest …. And reflect. Although the time went by very quickly, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

The highlight of my break was on Saturday. For the past nine years, on a Saturday in March, my parents and I (below) have volunteered at the “Where in the World is Dr. Dunn” Robotics Competition.


The event is hosted by the National Technical Association (NTA) and the University of Cincinnati (UC) – College of Engineering and Applied Science.


Nearly eleven years ago, I was a middle schooler participating in the National Technical Association’s Math Camp hosted at UC and directed by Dr. Cheryl Dunn. Dr. Dunn asked the camp participants to share ideas for activities. I loved (and still love) Legos™ and had discovered Robotics by using the Mindstorms™ sets. I shared my idea for a Robotics competition by writing a proposal (with the help of my parents to the NTA and Dr. Dunn.)


Dr. Dunn and the NTA implemented the idea which initially focused on elementary and middle school students. The first competition was in 2010 and participation has increased over the years and it now includes high school students.


Since 2010, the leadership committee has rewarded my contribution by allowing me to present the A.P. Chaney Perseverance Award. This award is given to the team or individual who has found a way to overcome their challenges. This also motivates me to continue to persevere and to do my best.


Below are the 2019 A.P. Chaney Perseverance Award Winners.


Overall, this was a chance to rest, reflect and enjoy Robotics. I had an opportunity to “create for good” and this was a wonderful way to spend my Spring Break!

Making it to the Future City Finals

Jane Oberhauser

Jane Oberhauser,
Senior, Mechanical Engineering

Athens, OH 23 February 2017

This past week has been a whirlwind. I was planning to go to Washington DC with Mira, a fellow ambassador, to judge the Future City Finals, but was not planning on getting the flu a few days before.

Here’s what happened. It’s Tuesday, I’m finishing up my classes for the day waiting to have a senior design meeting when my stomach starts making funny noises. Fast forward through all graphic details, and I am home miserable all night, then I sleep literally ALL DAY on Wednesday. I need to get his out of my system as soon as possible.

Sickness is so different in college. In high school, sick Jane was half happy because at least she didn’t have to go to school. Nowadays, sick Jane is 0% happy because time is the only money she has. Thursday, thankfully, I didn’t have class because of a water main break, so I didn’t have to decide whether to go or not (PTL). Friday and Saturday, I frantically caught up on all of my work just to fly out to DC and start a hectic day of judging.

The Future City competition is for middle school students who have worked all year on designing a city of the future. With so much science and details in their designs, it makes you think you’re judging college students.

We were judging with so many different people. I met random marketing advisors for construction firms who were sent to represent their companies and also past presidents of super big engineering organizations. We even met President Obama’s STEM advisor (SO COOL). It was an incredible experience to meet them all and learn from them. The whole trip was incredible, especially with the cool museums we went to and delicious food we ate.

Looking back on the past week, drowning in work to catch up on, half of me wonders whether it was all worth it. The flu, definitely would have stopped if I could have. The trip, though, not a chance. These are the experiences that will develop me and that I will remember, and I am so thankful that we got to go. The only cost will be pretending this weekend is just two days of free, intense studying. Because that’s exactly what it will be.

Regional Future City Competition

Wilson Taylor

Wilson Taylor,
Senior, Computer Science

Athens, OH 19 January 2016

This past weekend I had to opportunity to spend time in Columbus, judging students from around the state of Ohio in the Future City competition. The competition requires middle school students to create a virtual city model based upon technologies they believe to be possible in 50 years. Using their virtual model participants then implemented a 3D physical ‘splice’ of their city.

When designing their city, participants have to meet certain requirements, such as zero waste, high recyclability, and clear distinct city zones (Industrial, residential.)

My role at the event was to judge model presentations. The model presentations required each team to prepare a 5-7 minute speech that addressed the year’s theme: “Waste not, want not.” During the speech, participants described what they learned about the engineering design and implementation process.

On top of this, I got to see what these younger children believed the technologies of the future would be like. The most trending technology was pneumatic tubes running from every house which would automatically sort trash when sent through the tubes.

Some of the most interesting innovations were those that leveraged current technology in new ways. Many cities developed vertical farms in residential skyscrapers to conserve space while also creating a group gardening area to foster community.

The future cities competition allowed me to see what younger minds are interested in; the extent to which they’ll dedicate their time and energy to completing something they care about.

Hour of Code

Wilson Taylor

Wilson Taylor,
Senior, Computer Science

Athens, OH 8 November 2015

This past week I had the opportunity to volunteer with the university’s professional computer science organization. The organization brought local middle school students on campus to educate them on programming concepts.

The event was titled “Hour of Code” and was done in tandem with the national drive to teach computer programming to a wider audience. Participants programmed in a language called scratch that is essentially drag and drop building blocks that control a character on a screen.

At the event, students would navigate their characters through preset challenges while fellow students and myself would offer support to the students when they would get stuck.

The Hour of Code surprised me because students very quickly began asking for “advanced” features. These advanced features required more knowledge than the drag and drop blocks offered. When this arose, we found ourselves beginning to explain basic programming concepts to the students and helping them implement these advanced features.

Looking back at the event, I found it exciting to see younger students begin to get captivated by the ideas of programming. These younger students came in to play games with scratch and quickly began asking how to implement true programs. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with the students while they were on campus.

Judging at the Regional Future City Competition

Wilson Taylor

Wilson Taylor,
Junior, Computer Science

Athens, OH 20 January 2015

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Columbus with a few of my fellow Engineering Ambassadors to assist in the judging of the Future City competition. The competition itself is geared towards middle school students. Working in small teams these students must develop a city–they must come up with a design that allows the city to both grow and be sustainable.

To add an interesting twist each year the competition has a special ‘focus.’ This year the focus is on feeding the city with exactly one protein and vegetable.

For the judging process I was placed on a team that was responsible for deciding which group would receive the ‘Best Use of Recycled Materials’ award. I admit, at first I wasn’t particularly excited about the award I was assigned to as I didn’t have any significant background in the area as other judges did. However, after talking to just the first group of students about the their design, I quickly changed my mind.

I was amazed at how much research and thought the students had put into their overall projects. When they were questioned about recycling, it went beyond the construction of the final physical city and went into the way their citizens in the city would recycle. Responses from students even took into account the geographic location of their city and how it may make certain recycling methods more suitable than others.

I found the entire experience to not only be enjoyable but also mind blowing. Getting to interact with younger students and seeing the level of thought they put into every aspect of their city design was truly amazing.