Lake and Sumter Style Magazine
6:46 pm
July 22, 2017

A human touch for robots

Student Justin TenEyck is driven to succeed in technology.

People aren’t robots. But, can robots be like people?

Justin TenEyck would like to find out.

The 18-year-old just graduated from Lake Minneola High School, where he was president of the Nerds of Prey robotics team. He plans to study computer engineering at the University of Central Florida and then start his own robotic technologies company, focusing on automation of the service industry, cybernetics/robotic limbs—and artificial intelligence.

Justin not only speaks with passion about robotics, he wants to see passion in robotics.

“My own excitement in robotics begins with the idea of making our lives better in the process,” he says. “But what motivates me most is seeing technology reach a point where it has the capacity to emulate some of the most complex of human emotions. I am driven to see artificial intelligence have not only the capacity to learn and understand, but also feel.”

The robotics team and career-oriented courses have given Justin the foundation to pursue those dreams. The VEX robotics program in middle school first piqued his interest. Through the Engineering Pathways program in high school, Justin learned about auto production technology and became certified in SolidWorks, a 3D CAD program used to draft mechanical designs.

As a freshman, he joined the Nerds of Prey, where team members learn about electronics, mechanics, programming, and digital design.

The team annually competes in the FIRST—For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology—Robotics Competition in Orlando.

More than 60 teams totaling 3,000 students compete with robots they designed and built themselves.

In March, the Nerds of Prey had their best performance ever, finishing ninth with their robot, The Phantom.

The theme of the timed competition was “Steamworks.” Each team’s robot had to retrieve and load gears onto pegs, which players then placed on a gear train on an “airship.” The robot then launched “fuel elements,” or whiffle balls, into large containers, the “boilers,” to power the airship. Finally, the robot had to scale the airship by lifting itself up with a climbing mechanism to reach an elevated platform.

“This year was a huge step in the right direction for the team,” Justin says. “The experience this year has been extremely invigorating.”

The Nerds of Prey name is a badge of honor for team members. Some classmates get the appeal of robotics; some think it’s nerdy, Justin says.

But he knows that participating in FIRST can be a gateway to careers in engineering, business, design, and technology, and that’s pretty cool.

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