After a car accident five years ago caused a traumatic brain injury and numerous broken bones, Rebecca Trupp, senior mechanical engineering major at California Baptist University, was forced to relearn basic life skills.
“This encouraged and challenged me to recognize that my goal to become an engineer was still possible,” Trupp said.
Trupp dreamed of designing and working for NASCAR and felt she had to re-evaluate her career when she was no longer able to process mathematical and engineering concepts.
In 2012, Trupp developed an outreach program using NAO robots with guidance from Dr. Anthony Donaldson, dean and professor of the College of Engineering, and Dr. Liya Grace Ni, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.
The NAO robots were first introduced when the College of Engineering received a W.M. Keck grant of $250,000.
The money funds Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) hardware, as well as advanced computing and full-body robots and robotics equipment.
“We have a total of five full-body robots with 25 degrees of freedom and eight torso versions,” Ni said. “We want to take full advantage of them.”
Before kick-starting the program, Trupp was given the title of Engineering Ambassador in which she coordinated and attended various community events through CBU where she would promote engineering.
Trupp reached out to local schools to educate students on engineering along with other opportunities available with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degree.
With a passion to serve her community, she accepted a challenge proposed by Donaldson to recruit K-12 students with programmed robots. It was then that the NAO Outreach program was implemented.
Since 2013, Trupp has trained other engineering students how to program and professionally present the robots.
Cameron Schaefer, sophomore electrical and computer engineering major, and Jeremiah Gotts, sophomore mechanical engineering major, also play important leadership roles in the program. Schaefer has been teaching students since 2013, and Gotts coordinates events.
Trupp will be graduating in May but will leave behind the legacy of NAO robotics with Schaefer and Gotts, who continue to expand the program throughout the community.
“NAO Outreach is only one use of the NAO Robots,” Ni said. “We use them for many different aspects. I use them to teach tech elective courses and capstone teams to do projects.”
The NAO Outreach program serves as an example of the possibilities that come from engineering programs.
Promoting engineering from CBU is only a portion of a nationwide campaign designed to educate and encourage more students to pursue an education in STEM.
President Barack Obama launched Change the Equation to provide students with means to efficiently educate students.
This program included federal government, foundations and nonprofit support, along with scientific and engineering groups who collaboratively function to educate more STEM teachers and students.
The NAO Outreach program and Change the Equation are meant to educate the community on the importance of holding an education in STEM.
Trupp has visited more than a dozen schools with the NAO Outreach team and has attended many community events.
Future events include the Long Night of Arts and Innovation, a STEM conference and the Riverside Robotics Society Expo.
“Engineering is hard, but it is within anyone’s reach,” Trupp said. “All that is required is curiosity to learn, willingness to do hard things and desire to change the world for the better.”