New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Pre-College Engineering Education Division
Robots are becoming ubiquitous in our lives. They have moved beyond factories to many other environments including health care and our homes. The success of FIRST robotics shows their power to draw more young people to STEM education and careers. We believe that robots can do more to reach a wider audience including female and minority students. Robotics present a rich multi-disciplinary learning experience that touches upon several STEM disciplines including electronics, controls, fabrication, and computer programming. To broaden the representation in STEM disciplines, it is necessary to show students how they can make a difference and solve important problems. Mission-based robots show off the capabilities of robots but may not spur the imagination into coming up with ways to use robots to solve problems.
Our team is developing two educational robotic platforms that cost less than $1000: an underwater glider called GUPPIE and a surface electromyography (sEMG)–controlled manipulator called Neu-pulator. GUPPIE is an underwater robot that has application in monitoring and inspection of the environment, thus introducing the concept of robots as co-explorers in everyday life. Neu-pulator is a human-interactive robot that uses electrical activity of human muscles to move a manipulator. It introduces students to assistive robots, which are a class of co-robots that amplify or compensate for human capabilities. We hypothesize that meaningful contexts and hands-on learning with these types of robotic platforms will broaden impact to diverse audiences and increase interest in critical STEM areas.
Our university hosts summer educational camps for middle and high school aged students. In summer 2015, GUPPIE and Neu-pulator were part of a week-long Women in Engineering camp for 26 high school girls. Two weeks later GUPPIE and Neu-pulator were the sole focus for a week-long robotics camp for 20 middle school boys and girls. We are interested in the following questions:
• Which activities produce high levels of student engagement? • Do the robotics activities affect student interest in STEM subjects? • Does the addition of meaningful context to robotic hands-on activities increase the creativity of problem solutions?
We are also interested in the effects of gender and prior robotics experience on these questions. During the week, we collected a variety of data: pre and post-surveys; group interviews at the end of the week; observations; work products. This paper will summarize the data and discuss the research questions.
With this first offering of the robotics camps, the sample size is small. Nevertheless, the results provide direction for more in-depth study during subsequent camp offerings. Camps will be offered at a larger scale next summer. Furthermore, camps will be offered to teachers so that the activities can be taken into schools and thus reach more students.
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