NYU Grad Students Mentor Robotics Team

Poly’s MakerSpace must be heaven for any student interested in robotics, coding, or engineering with its wide array of tools, gadgets, motors, gnarly looking wheels, and hardware for building robots. So having nine New York University graduate students come to work with the Robotics team as they prepare for a qualifying tournament competition is icing on the cake.

Poly Partners with NYU
Poly students coding on a laptop

“This partnership was initiated through Kristin Guynn [Computer Science Faculty, Robotics Coach], who had a relationship with Nicole Johnson, Assistant Dean for Opportunity Programs at NYU,” said Jean Belford P’24, Department Chair, Computer and Information Science. “Poly’s inFInite STEM group, through Kristin’s contact, was able to visit NYU in the spring. It was during our tour that Kristin saw an opportunity to partner further through Poly’s Robotics Team.”

“I brought up the idea to Nicole Johnson,” said Guynn, “and after a series of meetings and conversations with Nicole Johnson and Kourtney Gardner (Undergraduate Operations Administrator, Undergraduate Enrollment Management) and a few other NYU Administrators, we created a season long collaboration with master’s students taking turns coming into some of our practices and assisting the team with questions surrounding robotics strategies and design.”

NYU Grads Elevate Poly’s Robotics Game

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Pankaj Kalve, a second-year graduate student at NYU, sat around a MakerSpace worktable conferring with Tesvara Jiang ’23, Junie Blaise ’24, and Jordan Campbell ’23 about building a robot for competition. Robotics team advisor Kristin Guynn explained that the team will enter two robots in competition, but they will be of different designs, so if one does not make it through, the other may. The number of Robotics team members has doubled since last year, said Guynn, now numbering 28 students including three seventh graders and four eighth graders, with the remainder Upper School students.

NYU grad student Pankaj Kalve with Tesvara Jiang ’23
Pankaj Kalve, a second-year graduate student at NYU, confers with Tesvara Jiang ’23

“The NYU grad students helped us brainstorm what kind of linear motion apparatus we should use,” Jiang explained. “Initially we only knew about the linear slide, but from their experiences, they were able to recommend a linear actuator or a scissor lift. Now we are considering using some of their ideas to build our second robot.”

Things to fix on robot

The NYU students suggested upgrades to robot designs. “They let me know that the hex motors will not be powerful enough to get the speed we need to pick up enough cones,” Jiang said. “After hearing this from them, I switched to more powerful motors from goBilda.”

The grad students also shared their experience working as a team for competition. They tell us about their roles in these projects,” Jiang said, “and help us complete our roles more professionally. For example, they explained the important groups in a robotics team, such as Head of Management, Mechanics, and Electrical.”

“They’ve, for now, just given general guidance surrounding the building and programming of the robot,” Kyle Williams ’23 said. “They did help me
realize that we were using some incompatible equipment with the robot and that it needs to be replaced.”

Zahaan Batliboi ’27 explained that he and other team members were in the process of redesigning one of the two robots. They had already taken part in a scrimmage the weekend before, he said, and were working toward a November 5 qualifier for a states competition. Guynn explained that the last of three qualifiers will be held at Poly on February 4 and 5, 2023.

Robot on track in Maker Space
Student Takeaways

Batliboi agreed with Jiang about the benefit of advice from the grad students. The NYU students have much more experience than us; they are very helpful when we are unsure of whether something will work, or need advice on how to do something.  They also help us troubleshoot when there is a problem.”

“Recently, our goal for the first robot was a redesign to make it smaller,” Batliboi continued.   “The NYU students have been really helpful in this process and have given great suggestions that have been implemented in the third model.  Additionally,  one of them suggested that we designate everyone to a team based on what work they are doing, for example, building, electrical, or coding. We have implemented this suggestion to help us organize everyone.”

“A few of them,” Batliboi added,  “have talked to us about their coding and robotics experience.  For example, one of them worked on making ground vehicles for the Indian army.  Another has a passion for autonomous vehicles.  These experiences make them very good at different things, and help a lot since they are very knowledgeable about a subject, which we are using, for example, coding autonomous motion.”

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