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Students, Faculty & Staff Develop Captivating Robotic Arm Exhibit for Terre Haute's Children's Museum

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Allowing Youths To Explore Robotics: The new Lunar Arm robotics exhibit, developed by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Rose-Hulman Ventures, is a popular new exhibit of the Terre Haute Children's Museum in downtown Terre Haute.

The young minds of tomorrow's engineers and scientists are being developed through an exciting new robotic arm exhibit at the Terre Haute Children's Museum developed by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students, faculty and staff. The Lunar Arm has been captivating children and adults since being unveiled last month.

"Robots and robotics have been around for many years, but the fascination and technology is advancing in leaps and bounds. That's why this exhibit is a perfect tool to help us accomplish our mission of enriching our children's lives through the exploration of science and technology," Lynn Hughes, executive director of the Terre Haute Children's Museum, recently told The Terre Haute Tribune-Star. "The new robotic arm exhibit will help children appreciate science and math while having fun and learning at the same time."
 
The arm was designed and built during the 2009-10 school year by Rose-Hulman students as a multidisciplinary robotics senior design project. It is 24-inches tall, has a 42-inch arm length, a sweep length of 120 degrees and a payload of five pounds.

"I am impressed with both the students' design and implementation of the lunar arm," Matt Boutell, Rose-Hulman's assistant professor of computer science and software engineering, told the newspaper. He was one of the project's faculty advisors. "Like any other robotic system, creating it required knowledge of mechanics, electronics, controls and software. The students took the requirement that the arm be robust very seriously; it's built like a tank! I also appreciate the recent efforts of many at Rose-Hulman Ventures to carry this project across the finish line."

Rose-Hulman Ventures helped develop several important elements, including the display case, which features a large plexiglass frame, and a control area that allows youths to manipulate the robotic arm to pick up and move objects. The project was sponsored by Time Warner Cable and supported by Ivy Tech Community College.
 

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Contributing To Community: The contributions of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students, faculty and staff members is noted in a new robotics exhibit at the Terre Haute Children's Museum. The project was part of a multidisciplinary robotics senior design project during the 2009-10 school year, and further developed at Rose-Hulman Ventures.

Faculty members joining Boutell on the project were Stephen Chenoweth and J.P. Mellor of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering and JianJian Song of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Rose-Hulman Ventures staff members assisting were James Baker, Barry Davignon, Rob Davignon, Jonathan Labayo and Jay Sotak. Students playing a big role in the project were seniors Sean Donohue, Matthew Dunn and Adam Wesley; juniors Evan Cornell and Han Yang; and sophomore Guanqun Wang. Recent graduates assisting were Shane Fisher, Nobu Hiro, Peter Leigh, Brandon Ridner, Mike Rollings and Colin Shipley.

The Children's Museum plans to use the exhibit as a tool in an after school program being launched this spring for third through fifth grade students. The program will focus on robots and manned space flight. Students will learn that robots are tools for astronauts and scientists to safely gather information about the planets and moons. They will also learn about recent robotic investigations on Mars, build a robotic-like arm and compare robotic functions to human body functions. This educational project is part of the Virtual Space Community, a partnership led by Space Center Houston, in coordination with NASA and partner science centers across the United States. As a partner, the museum receives specific space-themed curriculum to help fulfill the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) National Education Standards and the individual Indiana education standards.
 
Shannon Mullen, regional vice president of operation for Time Warner Cable, told The Tribune-Star that the museum's exhibit contributes to the company's new Connect A Million Minds program. It is designed to inspire young people to build the skills they need in science, technology, engineering and math.
 
"Eighty percent of jobs in the next decade will require STEM skills, so we must build excitement in these areas to help the students of today succeed in the future," Mullen told the newspaper.

The new Terre Haute Children's Museum is located at the corner of Wabash Avenue and Eighth Street in downtown Terre Haute. More information about the museum can be found at www.terrehautechildrensmuseum.com.