Career Center students get look at Army’s TALON robot

U.S. Army SSgt. Mark Taylor instructs Warren County Career Center student Faith Cruz in the remote operation of the TALON explosive ordnance disposal robot.

One of the TALON robot’s tasks is handling explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) to protect people from explosives.

Another is introducing young people to some of the technology employed by the U.S. Army.

A crew out of the Bradford Army Recruiting Center brought a TALON to Warren County Career Center on Tuesday.

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) visit was intended for students in the electronics and power equipment programs, but all interested students were invited, Principal Jim Evers said.

SFC John Navarette and SSgt. Mark Taylor invited students to drive the robot. Those who agreed could win an Army water bottle. All they had to do was have the robot retrieve it.

There was a catch. In the time-honored tradition of physical training, students who knocked over their bottles owed five push-ups.

Faith Cruz took a shot. “It seemed interesting,” she said. “I like to try new things.”

She piloted the robot a short distance across the lobby to the bottle perched on a traffic cone in front of PV2 Ferguson.

Asked if she collected the prize, Cruz said, “First try. I don’t like push-ups.”

“It was fun,” she said.

The robot helped make a connection between school and the real world.

“It’s all directly related to us,” electronics teacher Tim Sampson said. “We do a lot with programming.”

“It kind of put two and two together — why we’re building circuits and programming Arduino,” Zach Tucher said. Arduino are programmable circuit boards.

Some of the work in the electronics program allows students to create an autonomous robot — one that can make decisions based on input without the need for a driver.

Bringing the TALON, which requires a remote driver to make decisions for it, to schools helps the recruiters do their jobs.

“We are trying to expand our reach,” Taylor said. Three Warren County School District high schools are in the Bradford Center’s footprint. The other, Youngsville High School, is covered by a different center, but is still part of the Clarion Recruiting Company, he said.

“We want to introduce that we have the science and technology,” Navarette said.

“We’re trying to change the mindset of what the Army does,” Taylor said. “We have 155 jobs to choose from.”

Only five Army career paths are combat related jobs, he said.

“I want to give you a path to be successful,” Taylor said. “Most career Army individuals are, by-and-large, degree holders.”

“This reserve unit in Punxsutawney allows kids here to have a career in the Army, part-time, and continue their education through any school they want to go to to continue their education,” Taylor said. “You walk away with a degree and four years of experience.”

The combination of the Army Tuition Assistance Program, Army Reserve GI Bill, and other grants and scholarships for veterans, allows many students who choose that path to “go to school at little or no cost,” Taylor said.

“I really like what the Warren County Career Center does,” Taylor said.

“What you’re learning here translates into skills you can actually use,” Navarette said. And the Army needs those skills.

“The Army will not adapt without STEM,” Navarette said. “I’m looking for intelligent young men and women who will help the Army progress into the future — #dontplayjv.”