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Staff Sgt. Jeff Ehnen, a section leader with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, demonstrates the use of robots to students of Lejeune High School, Oct. 3, 2014, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. Approximately 60 students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, packed the classroom to hear how the Marines use robotics on the battlefield and how engineering can better people’s lives. The school requested the Marines give the demonstration because the students are beginning their robotics curriculum of the Bio-Tech Department course of study. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Dye / Released)

Photo by Cpl. Michael Dye

Marines, Robots, high school students

3 Oct 2014 | Cpl. Michael Dye

Marines with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, provided a robotics demonstration to several students at Lejeune High School Oct. 3, 2014.

The school requested the Marines give the demonstration because the students are beginning their robotics curriculum of the Bio-Tech Department course of study.

Approximately 60 students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, packed the classroom to hear how the Marines use robotics on the battlefield and how engineering can better people’s lives.

“When I saw the robots, my first thought was, wow those look cool,” said a freshman student. “But then, when I got to operate it, it became that much cooler.”

The Marines provided three robots for display, the MK 1 Mod 0 Packbot, Mark 2 Mod 0 Talon, and 310 Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle. One of the Marines also provided a robotic, prosthetic leg.

“I lost my leg in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and I was provided with this prosthetic robotic leg,” said Gunnery Sgt. Dominic Chavez, an EOD technician with the unit, and a native of Albuquerque. “This is a good way to demonstrate to these children not only the sacrifice, we as Marines make, but a working knowledge of how learning the basic skills of engineering in high school can prepare you to create something that will help someone.”

After the Marines gave short explanations on the purpose and capabilities of each robot, the students were given the opportunity to operate the machines. They were challenged to perform simple tasks, such as: scouting an area, picking up small objects and opening a box. Each simple task proved more challenging than the students expected.

“At first glance, it looks simple, like a video game,” said a junior who wants to join the Marine Corps. “But, when you start to actually drive the robots you figure out it takes more than just the controller to operate it, you also have to use your mind.

One of the biggest lessons the Marines stressed during the demonstration is to always plan three to four steps ahead. Many of the students had difficulty adjusting to certain obstacles that forward thinking could have avoided.

“You always want to plan ahead,” said Staff Sgt. Samuel Beltram, the training chief for the unit, a native of Fort Worth, Texas. “For instance, I know that in order for the robot to get under that obstacle, I have to approach from a certain side and lower the arm so it’s small enough to drive under it. So I know I’m going to make sure I plan my initial movement to the obstacle so I can make a smooth and time effective maneuver.”

At the end of the day, the students lined up to shake all the Marines hands and thank them for coming out. A few even expressed a new interest in the field of explosive ordnance disposal.

“This has not only provided me with a different way of looking at obstacles we encounter in our engineering class, but now I think I want to become an EOD tech for the Marine Corps,” said a senior.



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