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Build It: Building Middle And High School Students' Understanding Of Engineering, Science And It Through Underwater Robotics

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Innovative K-12 Engineering Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.261.1 - 13.261.18



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Paper Authors

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Elisabeth McGrath Stevens Institute of Technology

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Susan Lowes Teachers College, Columbia University

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Peiyi Lin Teachers College, Columbia University

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Jason Sayres Stevens Institute of Technology

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Liesl Hotaling The Beacon Institute

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Rustam Stolkin Stevens Institute of Technology

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

BUILD IT: Building Middle and High School Students’ Understanding of Engineering, Science and IT Through Underwater Robotics Abstract

Designing and building robots to perform a series of increasingly complex tasks in an underwater environment is the vehicle to engage, interest, and cultivate 36 middle and high schools in learning engineering, science and information technology. Using LEGO components and a hands-on, team-based, iterative design process, teachers and students learn how to build robots that must operate underwater in a three dimensional space. In building their robot to perform these tasks (proceed in straight line path across a pool, negotiate a slalom course, ascend/descend in a water column, and grab/deposit a wiffle ball into an underwater goal), they not only practice the engineering design process, but also learn the underlying science concepts that impact the performance of their robot, e.g., buoyancy, gear ratios, and mechanics. A one-week summer institute for teachers introduced them to the project goals and equipment, and the performance challenges their robots would face. A second week allowed teachers to pilot test the lessons with middle and high school students. “Teach Talks” and “Tech Talks” provided “just in time” learning resources for participants as they built and refined their robots. During the 2007-08 school year, teachers are implementing the lessons as part of their technology, physics, general science, or engineering courses in a range of implementation scenarios. This project, an NSF Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) grant, is aimed at motivating and preparing students, particularly from underrepresented groups, to pursue IT and engineering degrees and careers. A deliberate effort was made to enlist the participation of different types of teachers—general science, physics, engineering, technology education, and computer teachers—from a varied socioeconomic and academic group of schools across New Jersey in order to understand how the project can be implemented in a range of environments. Data from teacher and student surveys, student pre- and post-tests, and teacher follow-up surveys are being gathered and analyzed. The model and effectiveness of the summer institutes is described, as are the varying implementation models, challenges, and successful classroom strategies.


BUILD IT is a three-year National Science Foundation-sponsored comprehensive ITEST (Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers) project whose overall goal is to increase students’ exposure, experience, and career interests in science, engineering, and information technology. The project evolved through a collaboration between the Center for Environmental Systems at Stevens Institute of Technology and the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE), the Institute’s primary K-12 outreach center. Previous implementations of the project have tested the concept and its efficacy with high- achieving high school students during a residential summer engineering camp program, as well as through an elective one-credit design course aimed at exposing freshmen engineering students to hands-on engineering design earlier in their academic career. The ITEST project aimed to adapt these intensive efforts, which have taken place with self-selected engineering students, for suitability with a group of socio-economically, academically, and ethnically diverse middle and

McGrath, E., & Lowes, S., & Lin, P., & Sayres, J., & Hotaling, L., & Stolkin, R. (2008, June), Build It: Building Middle And High School Students' Understanding Of Engineering, Science And It Through Underwater Robotics Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3495

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