Jory Denny volunteers for holiday robotics

Denny_team.jpgJory Denny, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, spent a part of the university's December/January 2014 transition as a volunteer at Winter Camp 2013, a camp for the Boy Scouts of America's (BSA) Sam Houston Area Council. Jory taught the robotics merit badge to 32 young men between the ages of 10 and 17.

The merit badge requires boys to learn the basics of robotics, robotic safety, and careers in robotics, as well as design, build, program, and test their own robotic system. The boys were split into four teams each tasked with designing a mobile robot system for warehouse automation using Lego MindStorms robotic kits. All 32 boys successfully completed the merit badge over the 4 day camp and had a wonderful time designing and testing their systems! As a gift each boy received a CSE drawstring backpack containing department information, cups, pens, hand sanitizer, lip balm, post-it notes, and a t-shirt.

The camp is held at Camp Strake in Conroe, TX, from Dec. 26-31, and the camp annually hosts over a thousand boy scouts from the Houston area. The boys sign up for various merit badge classes (up to 5) and have 4 days to complete them. Jory Denny, an Eagle Scout of BSA troop 828 since Dec. 2005, has attended the Camp since 2001 and volunteered on staff since 2008. This is his first year to teach and the camp's first year to offer the robotics merit badge as it is a relatively new merit badge in the BSA (since 2011).

Jory received a B.S. in Computer Science from Texas A&M University in May 2011, graduating Magna Cum Laude and as an Honors Undergraduate Research Fellow. This past summer he received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, which he used to further his interest in developing applications to engage K-12 students in STEM. His research honors include becoming a Finalist for the Computing Research Association's (CRA) Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award in 2011, receiving the CSE department's Undergraduate Research Award in that same year and the department's Mentoring Award in 2013. His research interests are in robotics, physically-based simulation, computational geometry, and machine learning.

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photo:   Jory Denny (standing center back) with BSA members of the Sam Houston Area Council