• September 21, 2022

    PacTrans WDI Partners with UW Youth & Teen Program to Deliver Two-Week Course on Autonomous Cars

    This summer, the PacTrans Workforce Development Institute worked with the UW Continuum College’s Youth and Teen Program to develop and offer a two-week course to middle school students called, Introduction to Autonomous Cars. In this course, students learned principles of automation using LEGO Education Spike kits. To better connect what they were learning through these hands-on activities, the course also featured a series of guest speakers and UW lab visits where professionals presented on a variety of transportation related topics.

    PacTrans Assistant Director, Cole Kopca, co-taught this course with a recent high school graduate, Erik Ma. Erik, until graduating, was part of the FTC 18225HD robotics team that has successfully won the state competition the past two years in a row. Erik was the primary developer of the hands-on exercises and robotics components while Cole coordinated the guest speakers/visits and handled the transportation components of the course.

    Lego Education Spike Kits come with a “Hub” (basically a CPU and battery), four motors (two small and two medium), and four sensors (two color, one distance, and one pressure). They also come with all of the wheels, axels, and other components necessary to build a “vehicle.” The software used to communicate with the hub is incredibly intuitive with drag-and-drop code, and the desktop program comes with a plethora of supplemental training exercises and how-to videos.

    Students spent the first week going through exercise to learn about how to use all of the various components to make a vehicle perform tasks, and then spent the second week putting together final projects. Final projects required students to identify a real world vehicle and identify three common tasks that vehicle needs to accomplish on a regular basis. While their vehicles did not need to visually resemble their identified vehicle type, they had to build a vehicle and program it to do all three of those tasks in an automated fashion. The final day of the course, friends and family were invited to watch the eight teams present their final projects.

    PacTrans WDI would specifically like to thank: Dongho Chang (Washington State Department of Transportation), Eric Shimizu (DKS & Associates), Daniel Lai (City of Bellevue), Yinhai Wang (UW STAR Lab), FTC HD18225 team, Linda Boyle (UW Human Factor and Statistical Modeling Lab), and Ben Estroff (UW Husky Robotics Team).