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Students Study Mechatronics, Computer Viruses Active Again

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RALEIGH — At North Carolina State this week, a couple of dozen high school juniors and seniors demonstrated little robotic machines that they built in Mechatronics camp.

Mechatronics is a combination of mechanical, microelectronic and computer science engineering. Built from kits, students program the complicated machines to do specific tasks.

"It took a while to build the body. They had to explain the breadboard, which is where we hook in the electronics. It was a little confusing at first, but I think everyone understands it now," said Betsy Eames, a senior from New York.

Students, including Eames, showed how their little robots performed. On-board sensors led the robots to a light, allowed them to back up after running into obstacles and prevented them from going over drop-offs. The relatively new field of Mechatronics has led to anti-lock brakes on cars and control systems on modern planes.

In other technical news, computer viruses continue to plague individuals and businesses, but newer detection software may help.

This week's Sircam and Code Red virus hits have been widespread, even threatening defense department computers. New detection programs may help.

"We're seeing better software that tries to make a determination. It looks at a file and says it's acting like a virus and if so, then tries to get rid of it," said Richard Smith of the Privacy Foundation.

To protect yourself, be careful when opening any e-mail attachment, and keep your anti-virus software updated.