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CCU professor mentors high school robotics program

April 19, 2005

A group of Horry County high school students have built a robot that will compete in a national science competition April 20 to 24 at the Atlanta Superdome. Coastal Carolina University computer science professor Donald Yessick mentored approximately 20 students at the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology in Myrtle Beach in the creation of a robot as part of a national program called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

The competition, which began in January 2005, required the students to build a robot in six weeks. The students, under the tutelage of Yessick and fellow mentors from AVX, Santee Cooper and other area institutions, built a remote-controlled robot with a scissor lift and an arm capable of picking up small objects. The robot, which the students named "Running with Scissors," competed in the statewide Palmetto Regional competition in Columbia in late March. The national competition in Atlanta this week will be attended by more than 10,000 students from 19 countries.

Yessick's mission was to mentor students through the process of writing computer language control systems for the robot, which responds to input from three joysticks and has autonomous functions as well.

"This is a great mentoring program because it introduces junior and senior high school students from Horry County Schools to opportunities in computer sciences, and it helps strengthen the ties between K-12 students, the university and the community," said Yessick, who also plans to participate in a Summer Scholars program in robotics at the Academy.

Yessick, who joined the Coastal faculty in January, earned a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Alabama. --