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How Soccer-Playing Robots Led This Eagle Scout to Become a Professor

A team of robots defeating the reigning World Cup champs may be the stuff sci-fi fantasies are made of, but for Eagle Scout and University of Utah’s assistant professor Dr. Tucker Hermans, it’s reality. In fact, the notion is one that hooked him on the realm of robotics.

Photo: Utah Robotics, University of Utah
Photo: Utah Robotics, University of Utah

As a sophomore at Bowdoin College, Hermans joined the school’s robot soccer team Northern Bites. The team programmed autonomous robots to compete in the RoboCup, an annual competition that aims to develop robots able to defeat the human World Cup champions by 2050.

The experience was instrumental for the future doctor, assistant professor, and robotics whiz’s career path. He even became one of the team’s captains.

“I was hooked,” Hermans said. “In my final year we placed second in the world, and I left Bowdoin to start my Ph.D. in robotics at the Georgia Institute of Technology.”

The rest was history for Hermans, who helped with the Robotics merit badge during his studies.

“I played a small role in helping run a merit badge class on robotics as a graduate student at Georgia Tech,” Hermans explained. “My friends in the robotics Ph.D. program organized the event and I helped out by giving a talk on safety around robots and supervising Scouts in programming Lego Mindstorms robots.”

Scouts, Robotics, and STEM Careers

Dr. Tucker Hermans comes from a Scouting legacy. His father, Dr. Michael Hermans (pictured right), and two brothers also earned Eagle Scout.
Dr. Tucker Hermans (left) comes from an Eagle-packed family. His father, Dr. Michael Hermans (right), and two brothers also earned Scouting’s highest rank. (Photo: Kathryn Hermans)

The assistant professor cites two Philmont treks and the 2001 National Scout Jamboree as his favorite Scouting memories. Thanks to his experience from Tiger Cub to Eagle, Hermans thinks Scouts can utilize robotics to better serve their communities.

“Scouts can work to identify where robotics can help their society by finding areas where robotics could be applied to improve the lives of others,” he said.

This idea of robots assisting the lives of humans is where much of Hermans’ interest lies. He explained how robots could act as aids, allowing humans to spend more time doing things they love. He noted this concept is especially helpful for older adults and senior citizens.

As young people like Eagle Scout Kenneth Shinozuka make national news (and trips to the White House) for projects in this vein of thought, Hermans encourages Scouts to keep their minds open to careers in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

Hermans said Scouts should buck the norm when considering what the stereotypical STEM mind might be like.

“A career in STEM is open to everyone,” he noted. “You don’t need to be a ‘math person’ or a ‘nerd’ to be a part of our field. I much prefer spending time hiking outdoors to playing video games at home.”

And as for the Scout who loves science but feels skittish about how he or she will fit in the STEM world, Hermans has some advice.

“Scouts should seek out role models in the STEM field with whom they can identify and not worry if they aren’t like everyone around them,” Hermans recommended. “Being different is a great thing in this context. It means you think differently and have something unique and valuable to offer!”

Learn more about Dr. Hermans’ background and research on the University of Utah Robotics page.

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Gina Circelli

Gina

This blog is managed and written by staff of the Communications Department of the Boy Scouts of America.