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Gates at the entrance of California University of PennsylvaniaGates at the entrance of California University of Pennsylvania


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Posted on April 4, 2014

Portrait of Interim University President Geraldine Jones. To: All students, faculty and staff
From: Interim President Geraldine M. Jones

Last week I had the pleasure of witnessing hands-on education at its best. From Thursday through Saturday the FIRST® Robotics Competition lit up the Convocation Center, combining the focus of a high-tech lab with the intensity of a sports playoff and the energy of a rock concert.

Nearly 1,000 high school students traveled from across Pennsylvania and as far away as Ontario and Florida to take part in the Greater Pittsburgh Regional competition. Each of the 48 competing teams had built a sophisticated, 120-pound robot capable of passing, tossing and catching a 2-foot-diameter ball in a game called Aerial Assist.

Working under the guidance of more than 350 professional adult mentors — and often with the support of local businesses and industries — the students had just six weeks to design, build and test their unique creations before wheeling them into the arena.

The robots were quite impressive. So was inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST, who dropped in to sign autographs and take dozens of “selfies” with the teens.

But I was most impressed with the high school competitors I met on the floor, in the hallways and backstage in the “pits.”

These students were focused on learning. They clearly had mastered difficult science, engineering and math concepts, and they were actively engaged in solving complex problems as they arose.

While student technicians fine-tuned their robots, their teammates met with industry professionals who reviewed their engineering designs and examined their business plans. Out on the floor, student marketers promoted their teams, and costumed mascots pumped up the thousands of fans in the bleachers.

No matter their role, the students I met spoke about their projects with tremendous eloquence and passion. Many of them spend after-school hours, weekends and vacations on FIRST activities. As a group, they exhibited what FIRST calls “gracious professionalism” — and wow, can they dance!

I came away thinking, “These are exactly the students we want to see here at Cal U.”

If you missed the excitement, I invite you to tune in tomorrow to “FIRST Robotics, Presented by Cal U,” airing at 5:30 p.m. April 5 on KDKA-TV. The 30-minute TV show will give you a taste of what the FIRST Robotics regional was all about.

Better yet, come see for yourself: Our University will host a separate robotics competition, the Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ Finals, April 25-26 in the Convocation Center. Whether your interest lies in technology, education, corporate partnerships or just plain fun, I strongly urge you to attend.

Let’s introduce ourselves to these bright, engaged teens. Let’s make them aware of what Cal U has to offer. And let’s remind ourselves of the power of high-quality, hands-on education. When students are fully engaged in learning, there’s no limit to what they can do.

With warm wishes,

Interim President Jones' signature.

Meet Interim President Geraldine M. Jones