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A New Robotics Educational System for Teaching Advanced Engineering Concepts to K-12 students

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Innovative Use of Technology in K-12 Outreach

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Fernando Garcia Gonzalez Florida Gulf Coast University

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Dr. Fernando Gonzalez joined FGCU as an Assistant Professor in the Software Engineering Program in the fall of 2013. Previously he has worked at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas, the U.S. Department of Energy at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico and at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Gonzalez graduated from the University of Illinois in 1997 with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. He received his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering and his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Florida International University in 1992 and 1989. Dr. Gonzalez research interest includes the intelligent control of large scale autonomous systems, autonomous vehicles, discrete-event modeling and simulation and human signature verification.

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Janusz Zalewski Florida Gulf Coast University

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Janusz Zalewski, Ph.D., is a professor of computer science and software engineering at Florida Gulf Coast University. Prior to an academic appointment, he worked for various nuclear research institutions, including the Data Acquisition Group of Superconducting Super Collider and Computer Safety and Reliability Center at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He also worked on projects and consulted for a number of private companies, including Lockheed Martin, Harris, and Boeing. Zalewski served as a chairman of the International Federation for Information Processing Working Group 5.4 on Industrial Software Quality, and of an International Federation of Automatic Control Technical Committee on Safety of Computer Control Systems. His major research interests include safety related, real-time embedded and cyberphysical computer systems, and computing education.

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Recently there have been a rising popularity in the use of robotics as a vehicle to expose K-12 students to the STEM disciplines. A very common practice is to have the students build remote control robotic vehicles for competitions such as the various First USA Robotics Competitions. Our goal is to go beyond having the students simply build the robot and control it using a remote control to teaching them more advanced engineering concepts. In this work we are taking a robotics kit designed for K-12 students, combining it with a robotics educational tool designed for students in higher education and creating a robotics educational system designed to teach higher level engineering concepts to K-12 students. This is an ambitious challenge with promising results.

This paper introduces an educational robotics system that, given an appropriate task, allows the students to design, model, simulate, build, and program their robotic arm to accomplish this task. Emphasis is placed on the process of modeling and simulating their design in order to assure correctness before physical construction. The system includes a Pitsco Tetrix Prime robotics kit, designed for K-12 robotics activities, an Atmel XMEGA-A3BU XPlained microcontroller board and a custom circuit board, both designed to provide electrical signals to the servo motors in the kit given commands from the robotics software tool and the software tool itself. The robotics software tool was developed by our research team for the purpose of supporting undergraduate and graduate introductory robotics courses.

The system was used in the Summer Research Opportunity camp offered at __ University’s __Center for STEM Education. This summer camp was offered as a 40 hours, two-week camp to middle school students These students must have participated in the _ _ _ Regional Science Fair in order to apply for the camp. The students were asked to design a robotic arm that can hold a pencil and write their name on a sheet of paper. Observations show that the students were more comfortable designing their arm with the kit as opposed to first designing it on paper. However they did prefer to program their virtual arm first before running their program on the physical arm demonstrating the understanding of the concept of modeling and simulation in the development process.

The learning outcomes include learning the concept of modeling and simulation in the design process, modeling their arm’s kinematics using the standard robotics Denavit-Hartenberg parameters, and industrial robotics programming.

Gonzalez, F. G., & Zalewski, J. (2016, June), A New Robotics Educational System for Teaching Advanced Engineering Concepts to K-12 students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26380

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