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Community Outreach, General Information, Student Spotlight

LSU Ph.D. Student Leads Robotics Team to World Championships

06/02/2011 03:22 PM

BATON ROUGE – The Woodlawn High School Panthrobotics robotics team, led by Woodlawn teacher and LSU College of Education Ph.D. candidate Jonathan Nester, recently competed against more than 350 teams from across the nation at the Robotics World Championship in St. Louis, Mo., on April 27-30. Nester’s team won the Bayou Regional FIRST Robotics Competition on March 19, in Westwego, La., to earn the world championship birth.


The Woodlawn team allied with robotics teams from St. Patrick Catholic High School of Biloxi and the Gulfport High School Technology Center of Gulfport to create the robot, “Dunker.” “Dunker” is 10 feet tall, weighs approximately 100 pounds and is comprised of approximately 250 parts. Its objective was to hang inflatables on pegs up to 10 feet high and deploy a minibot that climbed a pole.  In the competition, each team had two minutes to hang inflatables and deploy its minibots.  After two minutes, the alliance with the most points won.


“[At the World Championship] we competed well and overcame some unforeseeable equipment malfunctions, but ultimately failed to make the playoffs,” said Nester. “When people ask how we did, my response is simply, ‘not as well as we’re going to do next year.’”


“The main reason I got involved in the project is it maps a future career path,” said student and team president Hugo A. Salom Jr. “In only one season, I learned as much as a professional would in 10 years. It’s a really intense program.”


“My dad is an electrical engineer, but I want to be a chemical engineer,” said Salom Jr. “This experience will certainly help with scholarship and college applications because it not only focuses on building a robot but also on showing a university what you can do to problem solve.”


Nester is joined in his Panthrobotics advisory position by fellow Woodlawn teacher Daniel Eiland and by the team’s engineering mentor, Hugo J. Salom Sr. Eiland is an LSU alumnus with a master’s degree in education.  


“Mr. Eiland and I have great plans for next year and beyond,” said Nester. “We have the club meeting a few times over the summer to build camaraderie. We will start in the fall with robotics training camps for our students, so that as build season rolls around again, they are amply prepared.”


Nester earned his bachelor of science in mathematics degree, master of education in secondary mathematics education, certificate of education specialist in curriculum and instruction and education certification from LSU.  


“LSU has taught me almost everything I know as far as teaching is concerned,” said Nester. “My time in the secondary Holmes Program [LSU’s master’s year alternate certification program] gave me a great deal of experience in the classroom as a student teacher.  As far as Panthrobotics is concerned, it’s essentially been a balancing act.  Since August, I have completed 12 hours in my Ph.D. program, taught two preps full-time and volunteered with Panthrobotics 15-20 hours a week during the spring.”


“One of the reasons I’m pursuing a Ph.D. is to influence practices that would aid in that balancing act.  I haven’t decided exactly what I’d like to do with my Ph.D., but I would certainly like to be in a position to answer some of the questions surrounding education, or at least start posing the right ones,” he said.


For more information about the Panthrobotics team, contact Nester at or Woodlawn High School at 225-753-1200.


For more information on the Holmes Program, a master’s year alternate certification program for secondary teachers, contact the LSU College of Education Office of Student Services, at 225-578-2331 or


For more information on the Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership & Research degree program in the College of Education, visit or contact Rita Culross at

LSU Media Relations