A Visit to Purdue Polytechnic

Members of the Upper School Robotics teams and Engineering classes spent a day exploring future possibilities at the Polytechnic Institute at Purdue University.

More than 30 emergent engineers from the Upper School FIRST Robotics teams and the MATE ROV underwater robotics team joined teachers and team mentors for a trip to West Lafayette, Indiana to spend an afternoon touring the campus and course offerings available at Purdue Polytechnic Institute.

Students got a taste of campus life, including lunch at Wiley Dining Hall with current students and student ambassadors, and they bumped into recent Parker graduate Ethan Farkas ’23. The group also took a tour showcasing elements of the campus and program that would particularly appeal to students with an interest in robotics and related technology-driven fields.

Purdue Polytechnic Institute describes itself as “a leading academic college at a world-class university that embraces the connection of people of diverse backgrounds, experiences and thoughts, and leverages innovative learning methods, real-world experiences and industry partnerships to produce graduates uniquely qualified for technology-driven careers.” 

At the Bechtel Innovation Design Center, the Purdue student ambassador led an up-close-and-personal tour of the hands-on design and development environment open to all Purdue students. Spanning three floors, this state-of-the-art makerspace contains professional-grade equipment donated and funded by industry partnerships to ensure students are familiar with the tools they will use in the workforce after graduation. Parker students recognized industrial versions of many of the tools they have been using to create their own robots back at school and discovered a range of new ones as well, including water jet cutting machines and 3-D printers capable of producing materials out of carbon fiber, resin and even powder!

Students also visited the largest academic facility at Purdue—Dudley and Lambertus Halls, where they saw a number of labs. A member of the Smart Factory Lab took the time to show how he and others were working to use advanced technology to generate theory-based solutions to real-world manufacturing challenges.

As a proof of concept, this lab contained a mini-warehouse for automated material picking and delivery to a production floor, where 50% of the parts were manufactured and eventually combined with other elements and assembled into an oversized kick scooter. Some steps of this process were fully automated, while others involved humans working alongside robots, demonstrating the potential power of using AI, machine learning, cloud computing, data science, mixed reality, robotics and cybersecurity all in one.

Those who participated in this field trip left Purdue with a better understanding of the possibilities the Polytechnic Institute at Purdue University might hold for students interested in studying more about applied technologies.

Science teacher and MATE ROV coach Elizabeth Druger is a Purdue alum who helped to coordinate this experience. “My goal was to provide our Robotics and Engineering students with a window to the very near future,” she said. “Many of our students have begun to develop engineering skills—I wanted them to see how they could take those skills to the next level and end up with a university degree that is in very high demand.”

Computer Science teacher and MATE ROV coach Brianna Ifft added, “This trip was an incredible opportunity for our students to tangibly see what it could look like to take their interests in Engineering to the next level. I hope that seeing the scale of technology and innovation happening at Purdue excited and encouraged our students to continue on their Engineering journey and see a path forwards for themselves.”

Science teacher and MATE ROV mentor Xiao Zhang shared, “I am thrilled to see the Polytechnic Institute at Purdue University offering double majors in conjunction with the School of Liberal Arts. One of the student ambassadors is completing his B.S. in cyber security and B.A. in law and society. Our students got to see concrete examples of this interdisciplinary approach to solving real-world problems.” 

Parker thanks Upper School teachers and the Purdue employees and students who helped to make this experience possible.

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.