Seniors Abigail Gianis and Nick Kiratzis founded the Covenant Robotics Club during the summer of 2017. Gianis began recruiting members and gathering support at that time, and Senate approved the club at the beginning of the fall semester.
Serving as the president and vice president respectively, Gianis and Kiratzis pioneered the campaign to bring a robotics program to Covenant’s campus in order for students to apply the information they learn in their engineering classes.
Gianis said, “I recognized the necessity for a creative, informative, and educational outlet for students in STEM fields. During my first three years, I absolutely craved an opportunity to gain hands-on engineering experience. I found myself wishing someone would found a robotics club, but eventually I said to myself, ‘Why not me?’ And that was the start of it all.”
Ethan Farquhar (’99) spoke with the newly formed Covenant Robotics Club during Homecoming last fall. Ethan is a nuclear research engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (P.N.N.L.) in Richland, Washington. P.N.N.L. is one the United States Department of Energy’s national laboratories which strives to “make fundamental scientific discoveries that illuminate the mysteries of our planet.”
Covenant faculty Dr. Donald Petcher (‘74) and Dr. Phillip Broussard have been in contact with Farquhar since he graduated. Farquhar has returned to speak with students several times, but this was his first opportunity to share with Covenant Robotics, which was founded in 2017. He shared about his career path and what it’s like to be an engineer with the national laboratories.
Farquhar has also worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and has spent time as a research electrical engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Knoxville).
Covenant Robotics member Taylor Chapman (‘21) said, “Hearing from engineers has helped me understand the direction I am going in as someone in the pre-engineering program.”
When asked about the importance of a robotics club for developing engineers, Farquhar said, “Anything that encourages play with technology out there is beneficial.” “Play” is used in this sense to mean interacting with technology on more than just an academic level.
Farquhar said, “When we are playing, we are learning.” He believes extracurricular engagement for engineering students enriches and facilitates their experience in the field. “The big thing is increasing the amount of exposure to the available range of technology out there,” which is exactly what the club aims to do.
Dr. Curt Stern, the school’s engineering professor, says the club “helps [students] to keep that curiosity going,” especially if the students participated in robotics programs before college. Gianis agrees, considering her experience with robotics clubs in high school as a prominent driving force in wanting to create one on Covenant’s campus.