They can help

Lynnfield High School sophomore Gavin Fair and junior Colin McCormick, who started the robotics club, said they believe getting students involved in the club would make a difference in the community and the world as a whole.

“Robots are cool,” McCormick laughed. “The way the club would work is that students would come in with ideas for robotics that Gavin and I would help with.”

The students started the robotics club this year and reported that six students are members. To demonstrate what the club would be like to students, Fair and McCormick built a spider-like contraption as an example.

Their newest project? A robotic arm.

“The arm would use haptic feedback and pressure sensors attached to the bottom to have the sense of touch,” McCormick explained. “We would also use a virtual-reality controller to control the robotic arm.”

The inspiration for the arm came from McCormick’s grandfather, who had lost both his legs.  McCormick said he wants to make a difference by working with prosthetics.  While McCormick is in charge of building the robotics, Fair takes responsibility for the software aesthetic, calling it the “magic” behind the robotics.

“We were inspired by Boston Dynamics and their work,” Fair said. “Colin was the one who built it all though. I just did the magic behind it.”

Since starting the club, the two have raised $2,000 in funds and have held raffles and events to advertise their program. They recently held a meeting with Superintendent of Schools Kristen Vogel to discuss implementing more computer-science programs and robotics into the Lynnfield Public Schools curriculum.

Kathleen Dario, who works at the information technology (IT) department at the school, said she was astounded by the initiative and the persistence of the two students — she said they started small, but are making big moves for the future of LHS.

“They had only an advisor when they started the club,” Dario said. “Now they hold raffles and are having meetings with the superintendent.”

When they are not finding new ideas for robots or helping others, Fair and McCormick can be found working at the Student Help Desk.

The Student Help Desk is a course for students that teaches them how to be independent in solving technical problems, building new computers and 3D printers, teaching students computer programming and code, assisting teachers and working at the IT department after school. The students also incorporate what they have learned at the help desk in their other courses, such as 3D-printing a chair for a scene in English class or creating an online resource for students in a history class.

Fair, McCormick and four other students are treated as full-fledged adults when working at the help desk, as the course prepares them for what real-world experience will be when working in technology and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

One thing McCormick and Fair are looking forward to is the opportunity to teach younger students in elementary school how to code by incorporating a nationwide program for children, “Hour of Code.”

“You have little games and programs to help move a duck, for example from point A to point B,” McCormick explained. “This is very basic stuff and I think it provides an opportunity for us as people who understand tech and coding to provide a more accessible way to teach it. You think you mastered something, but try dumbing it down for those who don’t understand.”

McCormick said he wants to work in robotics at Boston Dynamics and Fair wishes to be a front-end developer.

Whatever the future holds for these two students, McCormick and Fair have their eyes on the prize in their new robotics club.

“It is a big thing with tech right now,” said McCormick. “It’s exclusive until it’s available everywhere so instead of being shut out, students should have that invitation.”