Industrial Engineering Professor Honored for High School Robotics Mentoring

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Chase Rainwater, associate professor of industrial engineering, was honored recently for his outstanding support of the Don Tyson School of Innovation Robotics Team.

Rainwater received the Compass Award on Dec. 2, at the Arkansas FIRST Tech Challenge Championship in Mountain Home. The award “recognizes an adult coach or mentor who has given outstanding guidance and support to a team throughout the year, and demonstrates to the team what it means to be a gracious professional,” according to First Tech Challenge organizers.

Rainwater mentors the team alongside Richard Cassady, a professor of industrial engineering and the director of the College of Engineering’s Freshman Engineering Program.

The winner of the Compass Award is determined from candidates nominated via video submission by FIRST Tech Challenge students.

Watch a video created by Rainwater’s students.

Rainwater and Cassady’s team of students, called Root Negative One, also worked alongside two other teams to bring home the top award in a judged field competition. Thirty-three teams from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee and Missouri competed in the tournament.

Dean John English of the College of Engineering said he sees this award as a testament to the role the College of Engineering plays in the global STEM community.

“The College of Engineering is committed to providing education and mentorship to the engineering students of today and tomorrow,” English said. “We congratulate Dr. Rainwater on this recognition and are proud of the impact he has made as a representative of the University of Arkansas in this capacity.”

About FIRST Tech Challenge: FIRST Tech Challenge teams (10-plus members, grades 7-12) are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format. Participants call it “the hardest fun you’ll ever have!”

Guided by adult coaches and mentors, students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles (like keeping an engineering notebook), while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and sharing ideas. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and can be programmed using a variety of languages, including Java. Teams also must raise funds, design and market their team brand, and do community outreach for which they can win awards. Participants have access to tens of millions of dollars in college scholarships. Each season concludes with Super-Regional Championships and an exciting FIRST Championship.


Tamara O. Ellenbecker, website developer
Department of Industrial Engineering


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