Since my sophomore year, I have been an Academy Coach for the Freshmen Academy class here at Viterbi. All freshmen engineers take this 2 unit course during their first semester on campus. The course is a hands-on class that focuses on ethical decisions within the field of engineering and how engineers affect society, technology, and politics. In addition to lecture once a week, the class also incorporates guest speakers and outside-of-class activities with the Academy coaches.

Last week my co-coach and I led a class competition that involved battling robots. The freshmen in our class were divided into teams and had 40 minutes to build weaponry and defense systems for their robots (which each had a balloon attached to the back). The goal was to design a robot that could pop another team’s balloon first during the robot battle.

They were only given simple materials: popsicle sticks, forks, knives, soda cans, and sewing needles. The teams came up with some interesting–and quite frightening–designs.

Our class really enjoyed watching the final battle of the robots (check out a video of it here!). Overall, the activity was a great success. Our class learned about teamwork, project design/execution, and strategy–all while having fun!