The Graceland University Robotics team of Oscar Chang and Aquila Galusha finished first at the Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium (MICS) April 21 and 22 at the University of Northern Iowa. MICS is an annual conference on computing, attended by schools of all sizes, that includes presentations of topics and papers in addition to the robotics and programming contests.
Former Ackerley Scholar Director Jim Jones was the first to bring robotics to Graceland. From the beginning, the teams have consistently finished in the top spots of competitions. “Graceland has a long tradition of performing well at this event, and it was exciting to see them do it again,” commented Dr. Kevin Brunner, Professor of Information Technology at Graceland. Brunner is also the head coach for men’s and women’s golf at Graceland, a position that may have come in handy for this particular competition.
This year’s contest required a robot to play three holes of miniature golf. The Graceland University robot was able to score two hole-in-ones and managed to tie for the first place honor. “It was intense for sure! All of our hard work ended up paying off,” said Graceland University senior Aquila Galusha, who helped each putt by leaning from side to side, just like a professional on the PGA tour. “I was smiling and happy when the golf ball rolled into the cup!” exclaimed senior Oscar Chang after his first victory on the golf course.
Computer science and information technology majors Chang and Galusha were proud of the win and the continued success of the robotics program at Graceland. The robot was nicknamed “the Spieth-inator” after American professional golfer Jordan Spieth, and it performed up to its name. Chang said, “It was a great experience, and I hope more students will be involved in the future.” Galusha added, “Plus, who doesn’t like playing with legos?”
Chang and Galusha are president and vice president for the Graceland Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), respectively, and have done an outstanding job of leading activities at Graceland this year. In addition to the robotics competition, later in the day the team joined efforts with fellow ACM leader Ross Robino to solve five of eight programming problems in the Computer Programming Contest. “Needless to say, we are very proud of these students and the longstanding heritage of computing at Graceland. We know these two graduating seniors will represent Graceland well in the future,” expressed Brunner.
Students Taylor Scafe, Josh Hill and Sameer Shrestha formed an additional Graceland programming team and were able to solve one of the competition problems. They have been inspired by the upperclassmen and will return next year in hopes of a win for continued success at the robotics competition. Graceland Instructor of Computer Science Jacob Belmore attended the conference and supported the teams. He will be teaching a robotics course next year to help students prepare for the event in 2017. Emma Byrd and Fatbardha Maloku also competed in the programming contest.