Team of students puts on the show during BotsIQ at the Convocation Center.
Marisa Fanelli (left), Joseph Uliano and Clarke Yancey in the Convocation Center control room.
As 80 teams of high school students took their robots into battle at Cal U, a different team of audio-visual pros at the Convocation Center are poised to capture every bash, clash and smash.
The Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ Finals was on campus April 26-27. The competition uses gladiator-style battles and a spirit of competition to build students’ skills in science, technology, engineering and math.
It’s a spectator sport as well, as supporters of the BotsIQ teams cheer on the action.
Under the guidance of Gloria Minutello, director of Facilities Presentation, Cal U students made sure they don’t miss a minute.
Seventeen students were involved in filming battles for display on the Convocation Center’s scoreboard, preparing graphics, setting up lighting stands, running the audio board, and working with the Daktronics equipment in the control room to choreograph the audiovisual experience.
Three are work-study students, two are commercial music technology students completing practicums with Minutello, and 12 are students in a Producing Media Messages class.
To prepare them to work in the audiovisual business, “we try to give students a lot of experience with the control room, so they know … what they can expect,” Minutello said.
Senior communication studies major Marisa Fanelli helped to position equipment before the bouts began.
“Gloria encourages us to be very hands-on,” Fanelli said. “At first I wanted a career in front of the camera, but now I’m very interested in the back side of it. I didn’t know about the behind-the-scenes aspects when I started working with her, but she has pushed me beyond my comfort zone.”
The Convocation Center’s equipment is on par with the gear at major entertainment and sports venues, Minutello said.
“We use all the Adobe products — Premiere Pro, After Effects,” said junior communication studies major Joseph Uliano. Daktronics video technology powers the arena scoreboard.
“We treat BotsIQ like a sporting event,” Minutello said. “We plan intro music and graphics so it’s more like an in-game entertainment experience that you’d see at a professional sporting event.”
Running the show at BotsIQ is a perfect complement to classroom learning, Uliano said.
“We learn things in class that become more understandable once you work at an event and see how it applies,” he said.
Junior Clarke Yancey, a communication studies major, said her event experience at Cal U has confirmed that her interests lie in sports broadcasting.
“This is my third semester, and it’s so hands-on, which has helped me so much as a visual learner,” said Yancey, who will begin an internship with the Washington Wild Things baseball team in May.
“We use equipment that’s just like the real world. And we really learn this stuff. We know it. And if there’s something we don’t know, Gloria is here to help us.”
For Minutello, the students provide invaluable help in the midst of high-energy events. But teaching students is rewarding, too.
“We’ve built relationships with the professors in commercial music technology and communication studies,” she said. “We are able to use this on-campus facility to provide students with the hands-on learning side of their education.
“There’s no experience necessary. It can seem intimidating, but it’s really not. I started with no experience. You learn as you go.”