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New Animatronic Robot To Assist Students In Computer Science & Programming

Posted October 5, 2023 at 8:31 am

The animatronic, known as a “RADEON”, is only one of its kind on the East Coast.

Pennsylvania Highlands Community College has introduced a new technologically advanced learning tool for its students: an animatronic robot.

The animatronic, known as a “RADEON”, was purchased from Garner Holt Education through Imagination, LLC, using grant funds. Pennsylvania Highlands is now the only school on the East Coast to house this type of animatronic.

“We are very excited to be able to use this advanced technology in our programs,” stated Greg Paonessa, Instructor of Computer Technology at Pennsylvania Highlands. “I have introduced it in all of the classes I teach, and we are incorporating programming the animatronic into our current computer science and information technology programming at the college. We are able to have students learn how to program it and immediately see results, which is very useful.”

The animatronic was built based on a mixture of the frameworks for professional entertainment venues and a military design.

It is operated using a mixer board and a proprietary software package, as well as an air compressor that is attached via a series of hoses. The animatronic has 24 separate controls – 12 electrical and 12 hydraulic – that allow it to make movements such as tilting its body forward and upright, moving its wrists, arms, head, neck, and eyebrows, and having the ability to open and close its eyes and mouth.

The mouth can be programmed to run alongside a speaker located in the chest area of the animatronic, making it seem as if it is talking.

“When we received the animatronic, it came with no information on how to operate it,” Paonessa stated. “There was no documentation and no software. We had to enter a three-day training course to learn the basic operations of it. Now that we know how it runs, we plan to make modifications so it can do more than it is currently capable of.”

Paonessa said there are plans to enhance the existing programmable interface of the animatronic, as well as add sensor technology to expand its capabilities.

The animatronic is also planned to be involved with the College’s annual OneBook event, faculty kickoff, and used as a subject matter for a business writing class. Paonessa also wants to hold a college-wide contest to pick a name for the animatronic, which will be housed at the college’s Richland Campus.

The animatronic is housed within the Richland Campus and is used primarily for Computer Information Sciences classes, which offers four degrees and three certifications.

Greg Paonessa, Instructor of Computer Technology (left) explaining the benefits and capabilities of the new animatronic robot (Richland Campus, September 2023).