Cullen Maksimowski, LSSULakers.com
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich.— Over the course of the next year, the Lake Superior State Athletics Department will implement a series of feature stories documenting our student athletes beyond the field of play.
We'll dive into their achievements and success in the classroom while also exploring the wide array of academic programs offered at LSSU.
Our first installment, focuses on the Lake State School of Engineering & Technology it's nationally renowned Robotics Concentration, a program in which four of our most recent Laker Athletics alumni received their degrees this past Saturday at the 2017-18 LSSU Commencement Ceremony inside the Taffy Abel Arena.
The LSSU Robotics Concentration offers nearly 100 percent industry placement with major companies such as General Motors, AMT, Kawasaki, JR Automation, FANUC Robotics and many others actively seeking Lake State graduates to fill their employment demands.
As one of the only undergraduate robotics programs in the country, LSSU robotics students gain a leg up on the competition when searching for post-grad opportunities. Small class sizes and a $2-million-dollar robotics lab also provide students with extensive hands-on learning experiences that other schools can't offer.
Lindsey Pajot, Laura Valderrama and Jordan Dasuqi and Roberto Valdez represent the group of athletes to earn their degrees in the S.E.T robotics program in 2018.
Pajot, a Howell, Mich. Native spent two seasons as a member of the LSSU softball program prior to its removal as a varsity sport after the 2015-16 season. After starting 80 games with a .335 batting average through two seasons as a member of the softball program, Pajot made the transition to collegiate basketball for her junior and senior season's and provided an important leadership presence for the program.
Valderrama, a native of Madrid, Spain, has been a four-year letter winner on the women's tennis team appearing in 66 matches throughout her career while competing at the No.4 singles position in the lineup.
Dasuqi, a native of Clarkston, Mich., completed his NCAA eligibility a season ago after four seasons as a member of the men's basketball team. Dasuqi started 74 games for the Lakers while averaging 8 points a game for his career.
Valdez, a McAllen, Texas native, also completed his eligibilty last year and was a four-year member of the men's track and field team. Valdez was three-time All-American high jumper for LSSU earning two national runner up finishes during the 2015 indoor and outdoor seasons.
Last Friday, Pajot, Valderrama, Dasuqi and Valdez presented their senior robotics capstone projects in front of an audience of classmates, parents, faculty and alumni.
Part of a six-member group (Team K.R.U.), Pajot and Dasuqi outlined their year-long project which focused on an extensive upgrade to a robot work cell inside the LSSU Robotics Lab. Included in the upgrade was the addition of a third KUKA Robotics arm, a rotary table, control, vision and safety system upgrades and the development of two new lab exercises for future students.
"I would estimate that I put about 500 hours into the project," said Pajot. "I would say that altogether, for my team of six people, we put in about 2,400 hours of work on this project."
As part of the project final grade, each team was required to invite the audience to the robotics lab to provide real time demonstrations of the functioning upgrades. For their audience demonstration, Team K.R.U decided to have the robots play a series of songs on an electric piano.
"The most challenging aspect of the project was programming the musical demonstrations," Pajot said. "We used a brand new software so the learning curve was rather difficult. It was also tough to work within the mechanical limits of the robots to be able to keep up with the pace of the songs. It was an extremely challenging aspect of the project but I would also say it was the most rewarding. It was awesome to watch people's reaction to the songs."
Valderrama was a member of Team STS, who's project focused on the updating and restoring the SET's Thermal Training Units. The update included a revamp of the unit's control system and the addition of an automated data acquisition system.
Part of team S.E.A, Valdez's project was tasked with automating the current alignment process between a robot arm and steering column using a vision system and a compliance device for Nexteer Automotive. The goal of the system is to reduce the amount of time required to run the alignment process and improve the repeatability of that process and the testing effort.
Pairing the rigorous curriculum demands of S.E.T robotics program with the demands of competing in collegiate athletics is a balancing act that Pajot, Valdderama, Dasuqi and Valdez have mastered throughout their academic and athletic careers at Lake State.
"It is so impressive to know we have athletes able to work on such a great project while also juggling the demands of playing a collegiate sport," said LSSU women's basketball coach, Brandon Lokken. "Lindsey was able to put in so much work for not only basketball but her academics, and along with her classmates was able to leave a mark on the robotics lab here at Lake State."
Voted on annually by the S.E.T faculty and staff, Pajot was named the 2018 Outstanding Senior Mechanical Engineering Student.
"It means a lot to me to win the outstanding mechanical engineer award," Pajot said. "I would not have been able to do it without all of the support from my fellow classmates, and each of my professors as they have helped me out so much along the way. It was truly an honor to receive that award."
Pajot graduates from LSSU with honors holding a 3.54 cumulative GPA and was named to the Great Lakes Intercollege Athletic Conference All-Academic Excellence Team three-straight years.
"My overall experience in the SET program has been amazing," Pajot said. "I really love how small of a community the department is. I was able to get to know most of my classmates and professors on a personal level, which was awesome. The hands on experience I received throughout our degree has given me confidence that I am prepared heading into the industry."
In the coming weeks, both Pajot and Dasuqi will join the latest class of LSSU Robotics students to enter the workforce as they've accepted positions at Esys Automation in Auburn Hills, Mich. Valdez will begin his career as a robotics engineer at KUKA Robotics in Shelby Township, Mich.
Valderrama will seek to continue her post-graduate education with aspirations of obtaining an M.B.A degree while continuing her tennis involvement as a graduate assistant coach.
Additional information on the School of Engineering & Technology and the Robotics Concentration program can be found online HERE: