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Robots come to life with computer modeling

Ethan Brandt works on the PTC software CREO. Brandt and other FIRST competitors learned how to use the design program during a training session provided by PTC on Saturday. The students will be able to use the program to design their robots.

The engineers of tomorrow are the high school computer nerds of today. PTC, a global software company, realizes that and they want to get their products in the hands of those kids.

The company recently hosted a training event at Dakota County Technical College for Minnesota FIRST teams. FIRST encourages young people to get involved with science and technology. Specifically, the program holds robotics competitions for kids in seventh through 12 grades.

On Saturday, PTC provided training to more than 70 FIRST competitors from around the state on their CREO software. The computer-aided design software allows the students to model their robots to see if they work before actually building them, said PTC training instructor Todd Kraft.

Kraft is a senior technical engineer for the company. He conducted the training at DCTC. He said by using the software teams can save valuable time. FIRST teams have six and a half weeks to design and build their robots for competition.

PTC provides the software to the students for free. Normally, it’s fairly expensive software but Kraft said the company finds value putting it in the hands of kids to learn.

“These kids are our next generation of engineers. We want them to be outstanding,” said Kraft.

Elk River FIRST coach Steve Vrchota said his team came down to take advantage of the training session. He said CREO is a neat program that offers a lot of learning opportunities for students.

Ethan Brandt, a member of team 6080 out of Eagan, enjoyed learning how to use CREO. He said it’s an interesting program. Brandt said learning how to use the program will benefit him outside of his robotics involvement.

A self-proclaimed computery guy, Brandt said he plans on going into a science- and technology-related field. He anticipates he will have run into software again as a college student and in the workforce.

Austin Otto, from team 4506 out of Maplewood, wants to be a mechanical engineer. A senior in high school, Otto wanted to take the opportunity to learn how to design items on the computer.

“I love building things and I wanted to learn how to use this system,” said Otto.

Otto said he’s sure he will have to use CREO as an adult as well.

Kraft said the day-long training session throws a lot of information at the kids. He said now they will have to take it home and decide what to do with it.

Now knowing how to use the software, Kraft said teams have another tool in their belt.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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