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University of Louisiana Partners With K-12 Robotics Team

The university's Engineering Center of Excellence donated $10,000 to the Lafayette Parish School System's robotics program and gave its students access to equipment and mentorship from professors and deans.

University of Louisiana at Lafayette
(TNS) — The push to talk to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette dean of the school of engineering after he gave a talk at Acadiana High may have been suggested to senior Caleb LeBleu in jest.

But his decision to do so led to a partnership between the university and the Lafayette Parish School System Ramageddon Robotics team LeBleu is on.

"Our team is definitely excited about it," he said. "We're going to be able to do more, which is really exciting."

The partnership between the UL Engineering Center of Excellence and the robotics team comes with a $10,000 donation. The support is an extension of a gift by alum Georges Antoun, the chief commercial officer of First Solar, to the College of Engineering's Center of Excellence.

More than the financial support, the students will have access to equipment on UL's campus, like a water jet cutter, and mentorship from professors, deans and others at the college of engineering.

"The expertise and mentorship that this provides will help us dramatically increase our base-level performance," said Philip Ryland, the team's advisor and a teacher at the Career Center.

"Right now we are a championship caliber team, but I'm looking to go to the next level — winning the championship. With this partnership, it's providing us the tools and the support that we need."

W.D. & Mary Baker Smith Career Center: Learn more about how center offers opportunity for Lafayette students — Apply to enroll at Career Center

The team puts in about 800 hours to design, manufacture, assemble and adapt a robot ready to compete in the annual First Robotics Competition with the goal being to make it to the world's competition.

It's made up of more than 20 students who come from high schools throughout the parish, who are home-schooled or attend high schools in the surrounding parishes. It accepts students who wish to join year-round. The team is like a family, LeBleu said.

They work with teachers and other volunteers, such as previous robotics students and mentors whose careers include engineers, computer programmers and scientists. Now, the team will be able to add UL mentors to that list.

UL College of Engineering Dean Ahmed Khattab said LeBleu and his fellow teammates wrote a "wow" email describing what they do, their accomplishments and awards, and some of the expenses associated with participating in competitions.

"I saw the email and I said, 'we have to do something big,' " he said. "This is an exciting moment. I promise that (UL) will continue this partnership and that this is not a one-time event. This is something that we will support and continue."

LeBleu said he and his teammates were surprised and grateful for the positive response they received from Khattab and the college of engineering. The access to different manufacturing equipment and mentors will help the team, he said.

"We have a lot of good ideas within the team, but it's always even better to get outside opinion, especially from experts in their field," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to getting consulting in that area."

Beyond strengthening the robotics team, which Khattab predicted would win the world competition in the next few years, the partnership will hopefully introduce more students to what UL has to offer if they seek a degree post-graduation.

"If are looking at our university to promote STEM, we need to encourage more students to join that field and that career," Khattab said. "We need STEM and more engineers and technologists for better economic development in this area."

©2024 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.