Using robotics to inspire young people

Pictured are Jamie McClung, left, and his son, Clark, right, standing with a robot at a robotics event.

Jamie McClung has worked in the Fort Payne school system since 2013. He is in the field of computer science and engineering concerned with robotics, which are devices that can move and react to sensory input.

McClung lives, in part, by the words of Dean Kamen, (creator of the Segway), “We are not using kids to build robots, we are using robots to build kids.”

“The most exciting part of my job is seeing children excel in so many different ways,” McClung said. “I’ve seen children who were too timid to speak to a few people get up in front of a group of over 600 and speak. This avenue of creativity is teaching them life-long lessons.”

McClung said he has seen his own son, Clark, who is also interested in this field, connect with an executive of a large corporation due to his involvement with robotics.

“What many don’t realize, is that this is global community,” McClung said.

Challenges are given to students in various categories including space, gravity and water challenges. McClung’s students have taken home awards for their innovative creations on more than one occasion.

When people hear the term “robotics” they commonly picture a machine with a head and limbs, but that does not give a full picture of what is involved. His students have invented machines that help the environment, such as a washing machine that recycles water to help conserve water supply.

Interestingly, he did not work with computers himself until he was a junior in college; McClung is now in his early forties. Prior to his position in the school system, he worked with tech support for Motorola, helped set up websites and internet for companies and individuals and worked with his father’s business where they tore down machines and rebuilt them.

“All of that was training for what I am today,” he said.

There are many parts of his life that make him an inspirational person, but one is the fact that at age 38 he went back to college to acquire his masters degree to allow him to follow his dream. He did this while working full-time and raising a family.

His wife, Regan, jumps in on the robotic fun taking part as an emcee at events.

Jamie’s Motto: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”- Gandhi

— Marla Ballard’s Who’s Who appears in the Times-Journal weekday edition.

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