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Ohio University engineering grad student juggles coaching with robot building

Kaitor Kposowa and Colleen Carow | Nov 5, 2012
Ohio University engineering grad student juggles coaching with robot building

Ohio University engineering grad student juggles coaching with robot building

Kaitor Kposowa and Colleen Carow | Nov 5, 2012

ATHENS, Ohio (Nov. 5, 2012) -- For some students, it's not enough to just be passionate in the classroom.

Samantha Craig, a new master's of electrical engineering student at the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University, uses some of her extra energy to coach girls' soccer for the Athens Soccer Academy. Her fall 2012 "Under 12 (U12)" team recently closed their season with a victory.

"I'm thrilled that we ended the season on a high note," she said. "The girls deserved to see their hard work and determination pay off."

Craig, who received her bachelor's in electrical engineering in June from OHIO, has been coaching for about three and a half years. This season she co-coached a group of 13 girls with fellow OHIO student Lauren Custis, a senior visual communication major. Their players, mostly age 11, called themselves The Tigers.

The Athens trustee for the Southern Ohio Soccer League, Craig said one of her favorite parts of the job is seeing the girls grow as players, people and as a team. "They're a joy to work with – they have such positive outlooks on soccer and on life."

Jennifer Bowie, mother of one of Craig's players, liked how Craig engaged her daughter both on and off the soccer field.

"She started the season with a pizza-party practice and institute team dinners the Friday night before every Saturday game, and she developed ice-breaking and team-building activities for the girls to do together and really brought them along as a team," Bowie said. "The girls have honed their soccer skills and grown as players this season, but more importantly to me as a mom, they grew to support each other, to work together and to celebrate the time they spent together in competition and having fun," Bowie added.

Craig knows a little bit about teamwork herself – she has been a member of the Russ College's winning autonomous snowplow team for two years. The team took home top honors at the Institute of Navigation's (ION) national competition in 2011 and 2012 for designing, building and operating an autonomous snow plow that could remove snow from a designated path.

As a result, Craig, who is considering a career as a professor, was invited to ION' s Global Navigation Satellite Systems 2011 conference to present a paper on their winning project.

Wouter Pelgrum, assistant professor of electrical engineering and one of the team's advisers, says Craig received high praise throughout the conference.

"Sam sets high standards for herself, not only academically, but for everything she undertakes, and with success," he said. "Next to her noteworthy academic achievements, she also a driving force behind the social cohesion of our group," Pelgrum said, noting that she also initiated a soccer team for Avionics Engineering Center staff.

According to Craig, being part of the snowplow team is worth the extra work.

"This competition provides me with the opportunity to perform hands-on, real-world problem solving. It also helps me to improve my technical writing, presentation and team management skills," Craig noted.

"While there will be a lot of hard work and late nights involved making system upgrades, this competition is always one of the most fun parts of my semester. We have a great group of students and faculty, allowing for a fun and relaxed work environment," said Craig, who will travel with the team to Minnesota in January to compete for the third year.

Craig, who learned a love of engineering from her uncle, an electrical engineer, acknowledged that her friends and family often tell her to drop some obligations and give herself a break but that she's motivated by the people around her.

"I've been lucky to be surrounded by such intelligent, kind, and hardworking individuals, throughout my work for the Avionics Engineering Center," she said. "Perhaps unknowingly, they have helped to push me to become a better engineer and person, as I strive to reach their level of excellence."