The Transylvania Times -

PARI Brings ROVERS Robots To Brevard College


June 12, 2017

Courtesy of PARI

Left to right are Ken Steiner, PARI Interim Executive Director; Don Cline, PARI President; Tim DeLisle, PARI Software Engineering Manager; Michael Castelaz, Brevard College Associate Professor of Physics; Christi Whitworth, PARI Director of Learning Experiences.

An exciting project will be available to Brevard College students, thanks to a $260,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The Remotely Operated Vehicles for Engaging and Retaining Students (ROVERS) is a collaborative effort between Brevard College and Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI).

The grant covers acquisition of the ROVERS and sensors, software development for remote access, and professional development of faculty, student internships, curriculum development and program evaluation.

"No other program like this exists - our students will be learning important skills they are likely to need in the 21st century workplace," said Michael Castelaz, associate professor of physics.

Students on campus will explore the 200-acre former NASA tracking station located in Pisgah Forest with just a click of a button. The remote-controlled ROVERS will be directed to appropriate forest locations within PARI to gather information. Students will gain skills in using sensors, operating a remote vehicle and data analysis in connection with Geographic Information Systems.

Brevard College professors Castelaz, Maureen Drinkard and Jennifer Frick-Ruppert, along with Christi Whitworth, from PARI, were the primary organizers for the grant. Their hope is that the program will engage students in a dynamic classroom environment, promote individual student research, and provide professional development opportunities for faculty with an emphasis on best practices in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

"This form of experiential education will improve our learning environment, broaden participation in STEM, and strengthen our students for the future STEM workforce," said Frick-Ruppert, chair of the science and mathematics division at the college.

Current science and math courses will integrate the ROVERS program into their classrooms so that students can collect and analyze real-time data. Students majoring in the sciences will have the opportunity to compete for summer internships to assist with the three-year grant.

Educators at PARI plan to expand the project to summer and afterschool programs, especially SciGirls and the North Carolina Girls STEM Collaborative. Brevard College will also host a public display on campus to allow community members to follow the expeditions.

(Summitt is a Brevard College student who will be graduating in 2019.)


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