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Students learn AV skills at robotics competition

When 80 high school teams took their robots into battle at the Convocation Center, a small army of audiovisual experts captured every bash, clash and smash.

Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ 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, with loud, proud supporters who follow their favorite teams.

Under the guidance of Gloria Minutello, director of facilities presentation, Cal U students made sure fans didn’t miss a minute.

Seventeen students were involved in filming ‘bots battles for display on the Convocation Center’s scoreboard. They prepared graphics, set up lighting stands, ran the audio board and worked with the Daktronics equipment in the control room to choreograph the audiovisual experience.

Three were work-study students, two were commercial music technology majors completing practicums with Minutello,
and 12 were taking a media 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,” says Minutello, who manages a variety
of digital displays around campus, including the tower outside the Convocation Center.

Communication studies major Marisa Fanelli, who graduated in May, positioned equipment in the arena before the robot bouts began.

“Gloria encourages us to be very hands-on,” Fanelli says. “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 Gloria 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 says.

“We treat BotsIQ like a sporting event. We plan intro music and graphics, so it’s more like an in-game entertainment experience.

”Clarke Yancey, a communication studies major, says her Cal U event experience has confirmed her interest in sports broadcasting.“It’s so hands-on, which has helped me so much,” says Yancey, who spent her summer as an intern with the Washington Wild Things baseball team.

At the Convocation Center, “we use equipment that’s just like what’s used in 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 much-needed assistance in the midst of high-energy events. Teaching them is rewarding, too.

“We’ve built relationships with the professors in commercial music technology and communication studies,” she says.

“We are able to use this on-campus facility to provide students with hands-on learning.“There’s no experience necessary. It can seem intimidating, but it’s really not. I started with no experience. You learn as you go.”

— By Wendy Mackall, Communications director at Cal U

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