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Dec 19, 2013

Engineering a robot

Collaboration with students from different majors is a bonus of summer research

Multi-legged robot built by Lisha White and teammates
Lisha White and her team worked on a multi-legged robot.

Summer research at JMU opens unexpected pathways of discovery. Students make new connections and have opportunities to become involved projects and research that is completely different from anything they may have experienced before.

Lisha White, a sophomore engineering major, had just such an experience while working as part of a four-person team that researched how to build a multi-legged robot that could change speeds. "I was with people that I wouldn't normally talk to because we all have different majors and we are in different class years," she said. Two of the team members, Mikias Kidane and Luis Parada, are senior math majors and the other member of the team was sophomore chemistry major Jojo Yirrah.

White said the topic was challenging and rewarding. "We were looking at math that some of us have never seen before and trying to apply it to our previous knowledge," she said. "I think students should pursue summer research because it gives a taste of what research in your field is like. It is what you learn in class applied to life. I also realized that I would love to do this type of research for a career."

White's exploration of how a multi-legged robot could change speeds was just one of 14 projects student math researchers tackled this summer at JMU. Other projects involved a roundworm locomotion study, predicting the success of National Basketball Association teams in playoff series and creating a matrix population model for Monarch butterflies. The student researchers received stipends for their work, some funded by the National Science Foundation and others funded internally.