Build, learn, give: the principles of Florida Poly Purple Fire Robotics Club

Florida Poly Purple Fire Robotics Club
Florida Polytechnic University students Joseph Patullo (right) and Cody Kaschai work on a robot the Purple Fire Robotics Club is designing for the next VEX Robotics World Championship.

The Florida Polytechnic University Purple Fire Robotics Club is one of the largest student organizations on campus with approximately 45 active members. They’re all inspired by robots, but students don’t have to be experts in robotics to join the club.

Joseph Patullo, a sophomore in computer engineering and vice president of the club, said while many students are fascinated by robots, they feel intimidated to join because they’ve never built one. So, learning becomes the engine that makes the Purple Fire Robotics Club successful.

“People think robotics is such a cool thing, but they’ve never had an opportunity to know how to do it,” said Patullo, of Hollywood, Florida. “If you’re willing to put in the time, we’ll teach you everything we know. Of course, we are learning as well because it’s a collaborative learning experience.”

The Florida Poly Purple Fire Robotics Club has five subsections that appeal to different interests within the robotics spectrum of activities. One of them is outreach, which keeps members engaged with local schools and other robotics clubs in the community, creating a mentorship environment.

“We want to help young minds to think like engineers, to teach them the proper design process that you have to go through when building a robot,” said Patullo. “But it’s also a way to give back to this Lakeland community that has given us and the school so much. It’s a great opportunity to pour what Florida Poly is pouring into us, into the community.”

Another subsection of the club is focused on qualifying and competing at the VEX Robotics World Championship. In the spring of 2018, Purple Fire Robotics impressed the judges during their debut at the international competition, held April 25-28 in Louisville, Kentucky. The team received the Judges Award, which is presented to the team that the judges decide is deserving of special recognition.

“It was such a great experience to compete at that level representing Florida Poly for the first time. It’s one of our top priorities to qualify again and do even better this year,” said Patullo.

Another area in which students can participate is combat robotics. Students build 15-pound robots and then take them to different tournaments to fight other robots. General robotics is another subsection, which enables members to create an original robot project and then build a team of other members to help in the execution.

The fifth and final subsection allows members to collaborate closely with the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) club, to help them participate in the 2019 SoutheastCon Hardware Competition “First 50…Next 50”, to be held in Alabama at the end of the spring semester.

For more information, email Shanika Thomas, secretary of the Florida Polytechnic University Purple Fire Robotics Club.

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