Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Preparing for takeoff

Local students delve into app programs, robotics at PCC-Intel engineering camp


by: TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Daniel Kim, left, a sophomore at the Portland Community College Sylvania campus, reacts to the in-flight quad copter his team programmed during the Ultimate Engineering Experience camp on Tuesday morning at PCC's Rock Creek campus. Erica Lipski looks forward to starting her freshman year at Oregon State University this fall, but right now she’s not sure she’ll have more challenging fun with learning than she is this summer at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek campus.

After all, being part of a team that’s programming a miniature robotic quad-copter is a difficult experience to top, even if your focus is more on biomedical than mechanical engineering.

“I am learning a lot,” the 18-year-old said on Tuesday morning. “It’s definitely something I didn’t expect. I just didn’t realize how much effort you have to put into it. How much you have to think outside the box to get something done.”

A 2013 Sunset High School graduate, Lipski is one of 120 Portland-area students participating in the Intel Corp.-sponsored Ultimate Engineering Experience program held at the Rock Creek campus, 17705 N.W. Springville Road.

The six-week program, which kicked off on July 15 and runs through Aug. 22, is designed to teach students about digital application development, robotics and how to become an entrepreneur.

The mostly first- and second-year engineering, science, math and technology students engage in hands-on engineering workshops oriented to “real-world”-type jobs. Throughout the workshops and coursework, Intel engineers and PCC faculty, who set the camp’s curriculum, mentor the students.

Lipski feels fortunate to get such hands-on experience at the outset of her higher education journey.

“If anybody is in college, and they have a general idea of what they want to do, they should try to find camps and workshops (related to) their major,” she noted. “Find them and see if that’s what you’re really interested in.”

Through the sponsorship, faculty can in turn connect with Intel to get up to speed with industry practices.

“It is an ideal summer program for anybody interested in solidifying valuable technical skills,” said Dorina Cornea-Hasegan, chairwoman of PCC’s Microelectronics Program. “I am inspired by what I see happening. I see myself already embedding in my engineering classes many of the topics discussed.”by: TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - From left, Ovania Mosley, Christian Lee, Khang Nguyen and Erica Lipski tweak the programming on their quad copter robot at the Ultimate Engineering Experience on Tuesday morning at Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus.

Hungry to learn

Most of the 18- to 50-year-old students are from PCC’s computer science, engineering and microelectronics programs. Students also come from Oregon State University, the University of Portland, Portland State University and local high schools including Sunset, Aloha, Westview, Hillsboro, Forest Grove and Sherwood.

This is the first year Intel worked with PCC on the camp, which the company ran itself last summer.

“In order to save resources, Intel wanted to offer this to students, and to do it more cost effectively, partnered with the school,” said Gregg Meyer, a civil and mechanical engineering instructor at PCC. “Here they get facilities, program managers, assistants — many of the things they had to pay for next year.”

The camp’s first two weeks covered HTML-5 programming. At the end of the second week, students presented apps based on healthy eating.

“The first week was based on ideation, the process of creating and generating ideas in a systematic way, for groups to come up with a plan for healthy eating,” Meyer said. “The goal was to design an app to help people make healthy eating choices. They went from brainstorming to forming a solid idea.”

One of the app ideas involved using HTML-5 programming code to create a Pac-Man-like game in which points are gained when the characters avoid eating oncoming donuts.

“They weren’t all whimsical,” Meyer noted.

Up, up and away

Now in its penultimate week, the camp’s focus is on robotics, with teams of four or five working on “quad copter” robots that — if their design and programming properly mesh — will launch smoothly into the air and, with any luck, lightly touch down.

Lipski was on the first all-girl team that won Intel’s state robotics championship in 2007 and advanced to the world competition in Atlanta. Despite her experience, she found the programming for the quad copters more challenging than the “pick and pull” approach she used earlier for the life-sized robots.

“If you wanted to have it tilt at a certain angle, you’d just put in the degrees you wanted,” she noted. “With this, you have to program it out and put in the numbers to make the robot move. It’s just a lot more difficult.”

At the Rock Creek gymnasium on Tuesday morning, her team’s quad copter was having difficulty doing more than flopping upside down when it was powered up.

While Lipski’s team tweaked its copter’s programming through a laptop computer, Daniel Kim, a sophomore at the PCC Sylvania campus, was having a little more luck with his team, whose copter startled Kim after it made a beeline toward him upon takeoff.

“I never knew how to program before,” the 2012 Southridge High School graduate admitted. “I didn’t expect I would learn so much. I learned all kinds, HTML, Javascript. I’d never had the experience before.”

Kim, who grew up in the Greenway neighborhood, said the hands-on experience at the camp is invaluable to his pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree.

“I get to make these connections with other students and really work on something,” he said. “You see the improvements, and you see the achievements right away. When I see something that doesn’t work, and I do something to make it work, that’s satisfying to me.”by: TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Khang Nguyen and Erica Lipski laugh as their quad copter robot attempts to take flight at the Ultimate Engineering Experience camp on Tuesday morning at Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus.




Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy

76°F

Beaverton

Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 52%

Wind: 7 mph

  • 22 Jul 2014

    Showers 79°F 59°F

  • 23 Jul 2014

    Rain 68°F 54°F