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Generating Enthusiasm for Mathematics Through Robotics

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Student Division Early Introduction to Engineering Technical Session

Tagged Division

Student

Page Count

16

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28402

Download Count

54

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Paper Authors

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Matthew Hoyin Jahnes RPI Engineering Ambassadors

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Matthew Jahnes is an undergraduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute studying electrical engineering with a concentration in analog design. He has had internships with both United Technologies and Bose. He is currently in his last year for undergraduate studies and works with Engineering Ambassadors.

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David Joseph Glowny Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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David Glowny is a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic institute pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Computer & Systems Engineering (Dec. 2017) and a Masters of Science in Computer Science (Dec. 2018). He is currently an RPI Engineering Ambassador and is participating in research with Professor Agung Julius from the RPI ECSE department as well as research with the Worldwide Computing Laboratory group (https://wcl.cs.rpi.edu/) directed by Professor Carlos Varela. He has also worked as an engineering intern for Sikorsky Aircraft (Summer 2015, Summer 2016).

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Timothy Andrew Spafford Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Timothy Spafford is a fourth year student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, pursuing both a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a M.B.A. At RPI he is involved in the Engineering Ambassador program, where he is a student ambassador as well as a research assistant.

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Justin Lee Clough Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Justin Clough received his Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering with minors in mathematics and applied physics from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. As an undergraduate, he has worked on research projects with the National Science Foundation, Argonne National Laboratory, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. He is working on his doctorate in Mechanical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute specializing in computational materials and volunteers with Engineering Ambassadors.

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Elizabeth S. Herkenham Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Ms. Herkenham is the K-13 Education Outreach Director of the School of Engineering (SoE) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her responsibilities include managing the Pre-College educational programs for the NSF-funded Engineering Research Centers; LESA & CURENT ERC, and faculty-driven Broader Impact initiatives. Under Ms. Herkenham's leadership, the RPI Engineering Ambassadors undergraduate program was established in Spring 2011. This unique program has been an effective approach for disseminating cutting edge research concepts into today’s 4- 12 grade classrooms.

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Wencen Wu Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Wencen Wu has been an Assistant Professor of the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute since 2013. She received her Ph. D. from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology in 2013, and M.S. degree and B.S. degree from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2009 and 2006, respectively.

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Anak Agung Julius Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute

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A. Agung Julius is an Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He has been at Rensselaer since December 2008. He earned the Ph.D. degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Twente, The Netherlands in 2005. In 2005 – 2008, he was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Abstract

This evidence-based practice paper describes the study of generating enthusiasm for mathematics through robotics. A survey of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute undergraduate students taking the Robotics I course showed that, while many students have a great interest for mathematics, more than 1 in 4 of those same students expressed that they were not adequately prepared for the mathematics required. This is particularly concerning for those teaching engineering courses because concepts of robotics and mathematics are very much intertwined. Therefore, this inspired a study of younger middle school and high school students to i) assess preexisting notions of mathematics and robotics, ii) introduce an educational module to highlight the connection between robotics and mathematics, and iii) evaluate the students’ new opinions of mathematics and robotics. Through this, the objective is to develop and validate a method for generating enthusiasm for mathematics as well as for robotics.

The method to be validated works by first giving students an oral presentation on robotics and the mathematical concepts behind it. After the presentation, the students are given a challenge that involves these mathematical concepts and pre-built LEGO NXT-based robots. The students have to complete the challenge using the mathematic concepts given during the presentation; primarily those which involves determining programming parameters by calculating distances traveled by rolling wheels. The students are encouraged to calculate these programming parameters rather than using guess-and-check methodology. The effectiveness of the presentation and hands-on activity were evaluated by comparing the differences between responses of preliminary and concluding surveys for students of Berlin Junior/Senior High School (in Berlin, NY) and Lansingburgh High School (in Troy, NY). These results are analyzed with paired t-tests to determine the significance of change for students as a whole as well as for specific genders. At the 5% level of significance, an increase was found in both schools’ students’ survey responses for agreement with statements such as ‘Mathematics is important when learning robotics,’ and ‘The Engineering Design Process is an important tool for solving challenges,’ (n=103, p<10-4 for both statements). Overall, the results show that a majority of the paired t-tests for the survey questions had a significant improvement. Therefore, it was concluded that there was a significant improvement in the students’ enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of the concepts of mathematics within the field of robotics as a result of this educational module.

Jahnes, M. H., & Glowny, D. J., & Spafford, T. A., & Clough, J. L., & Herkenham, E. S., & Wu, W., & Julius, A. A. (2017, June), Generating Enthusiasm for Mathematics Through Robotics Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28402

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