O’Donnell leads robotics seminar

By Benjamin Edney

More than  15 students gathered at Tech Floor, located in Ralston Hall, for a Robotics Seminar with guest speaker Zachary O’Donnell, a Clarion University  alumnus, who spoke about his experience in robotics building and competitions.

The seminar was co-hosted by Dr. Jody Strausser, a professor of computer science and advisor of Tech Floor, who has been involved in creating past events to foster and encourage students’ interest in technological innovation.

“I just think the more we know and the better we can utilize [technology], the more productive as a society we can become,” said Strausser.

O’Donnell spoke to Clarion University students through Skype via webcam. Strausser considered him a person who is personally invested in getting students excited about technology. O’Donnell graduated from Clarion University a computer science major and has worked as a software engineer since.

Building robots has been a hobby for O’Donnell for nearly 12 years. He first started building small  30-pound robots in his father’s garage. O’Donnell considered the internal mechanisms of all robots pretty simple and compared a lot of his designs to RC cars.

Competitions within the robotics community vary from picking up items, navigating courses and battling robots. Arguably, the latter is considered the most popular, but O’Donnell advises attendees that the higher the competition the costlier your robot will be. For

beginner competitions, robots can range from $200 to $300. For the larger fighting competitions, it is typical to see robots cost an average of $2,000.


Benjamin Edney / The Clarion Call Students visiting Tech Floor participate in their robotics seminar.
Benjamin Edney / The Clarion Call
Students visiting Tech Floor participate in their robotics seminar.

Attending students had positive things to say about the Robotics Seminar. Richard Demark, a senior majoring in physics, stated that he thought, “[The seminar] was very informative for something I am interested in the first place. It was nice to get a professional perspective outside of school.”

Junior information systems major Nathan Berry also considered the event informational and added, “I’ve built a robot before in high school, so I knew a few things about [building], but it was nice to see someone else present.” He expressed interest in seeing a club built around robotics.

Becky Baily, a junior in computer science and president of Tech Floor, viewed the event in the same positive manner. She spoke about how it is typical for Tech Floor to host these types of events and that Tech Floor is open to all students. The area they reside in, Ralston Hall’s basement, offers tutoring, a study space, video games and socializing. If any student is interested in a particular topic, one should send your request to jstrausser@clarion.edu or techfloor@clarion.edu.

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