College of Engineering to mentor Lafayette Parish School System robotics team


The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Engineering is lending academic guidance, research expertise and support to a group of Lafayette Parish School System students who compete in high-level robotics competitions.  

The college’s Engineering Center of Excellence is coordinating an initiative to support the Ramageddon Robotics team comprised of students from several LPSS campuses. Those campuses include Acadiana, Comeaux, Lafayette, Southside and the David Thibodaux STEM Magnet Academy high schools. Students from nearby parishes and homeschooled students also participate.

Team members design, build, program and test industrial-sized robots as part of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science & Technology, or FIRST, robotics competitions. Based on performances during regional tournaments, thousands of student teams vie for spots in FIRST’s yearly world championships.

Starting this year, UL Lafayette will lend a hand to Ramageddon Robotics, with faculty members and researchers from several College of Engineering departments leading weekend mentorship sessions in areas that include design and robotics.

The hands-on instruction and guidance will include access to laboratories and specialized equipment on UL Lafayette’s campus for processes such as machining and 3-D printing.

Dr. Ahmed Khattab, dean of the University’s College of Engineering, said that the college’s support of the Ramageddon Robotics team represents “an investment that promises numerous returns for the future of the engineering field, and we are proud to be a part of it.”

“The tools and skills these students learn are invaluable and together we're building a foundation for a new era of technological leaders and problem solvers,” Khattab added.

The initiative, which also includes a $10,000 gift to the team, was officially launched on Wednesday during a check presentation ceremony at LPSS’ W.D. and Mary Baker Smith Career Center. The support is an extension of a gift by alum Georges Antoun to the College of Engineering’s Center of Excellence. The center is designed to foster student success and outreach programs for both students on campus and aspiring engineering students.  

Antoun, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Engineering in 1988, is chief commercial officer of First Solar, the Western Hemisphere's largest solar energy manufacturer. He is also chair of the college’s Dean’s Advisory Council. In that role, Antoun offers guidance and expertise in many areas, including strategic planning and student mentoring efforts.

The overarching goal of the FIRST robotics competitions – and the students’ work and study leading up to them – is to help promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, disciplines and careers.

The competitions also help aspiring engineers gain “real-world” engineering experience and develop leadership skills, explained Philip Ryland, a teacher at the W.D. and Mary Baker Smith Career Center and lead mentor for Ramageddon Robotics.

“Students learn time management skills, leadership, electrical programming, CAD/CAM, machining, engineering, graphic design and marketing,” he said.

Photo caption: UL Lafayette’s College of Engineering will lend academic guidance, research expertise and support to a Lafayette Parish School System student team that competes in high-level robotics competitions. University and LPSS representatives launched the joint initiative during a check presentation ceremony on Wednesday. Photo credit: Lafayette Parish School System