As a senior in high school, Camilo Buscaron built a robotic arm for a science fair project. Now, as a UF senior, he wants to push robotics further and leave behind a legacy.
Computer engineering fifth-year senior Buscaron, 22, is the president and founder of Gator Robotics. The club's goal is to help students learn about robotics, design robots, participate in competitions and showcase their projects.
"Robotics is a multidisciplinary endeavor," he said. "It requires knowledge of electrical, computer and mechanical engineering. I want to do all those."
Buscaron grew up in the Dominican Republic and moved to Miami at 15. He developed a love for custom automotives and engineering at his uncle's mechanics shop, and his passion for robotics grew when he created the arm.
Once he was at UF, Buscaron pursued robotics, but he said it was hard for inexperienced students to get involved with SubjuGator, an award-winning autonomous submarine.
So he found his way into UF's robotics program by offering to help a senior with his thesis project.
Luis Alejandro Vega, now 26, mentored Buscaron while the freshman helped him design eight MILyBots, orange-sized robots programmed to play tag, find balls and dance salsa together.
"Every time he talks, I can feel the passion in what he's saying," Vega said about working with Buscaron.
Buscaron co-authored a paper about the project, and he and Vega won the award for the best paper at the southeast conference of the IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Eric Schwartz, an engineering professor and the club's faculty adviser, said he thinks no one from UF has ever won the award, and the accomplishment is unheard of for a freshman.
A few years later, Buscaron founded Gator Robotics to provide students with more opportunities in the field. He and the club's six other officers were so surprised by the turnout of the first meeting, they triple-counted the 144 signatures on the sign-in sheet.
On Dec. 7, the club held a robotics fair in the Reitz Union Colonnade with demonstrations that included several robots that club members designed and built last semester.
Included in the bunch were InstiGator, an autonomous robot that won a lawn-mowing competition last summer, and TailGator, a robot with a cooler and a grill that the club showcased at a football game. The Blue Rover robot is modeled after the Mars vehicle, Sojourner. Buscaron said Blue Rover could have military and emergency situation applications.
Buscaron said he commits 15 to 20 hours to the club each week and spends time working on robotics projects in Schwartz's Machine Intelligence Lab.
Buscaron has a vision for UF's robotics program. He said when people think of UF 25 years from now, he hopes they'll think of the best robotics school in the world.
Gator Robotics Vice President Daniel Nunez, said, "Doing projects with him is very, very encouraging because he's very open-minded and he let's you work and do things on your own, but he gives you input too."
Schwartz also sings Buscaron's praises.
"I always tell people, ‘If I had three Camilos, we could rule the world.'"
Computer science senior Camilo Buscaron, 22, spends his days working with robots to prepare them for competitions. He and his team recently built the SubjuGator, which can to swim through underwater tubes without a remote control.