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Motivation Factors for Middle and High School Students in Summer Robotics Program (Fundamental)

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-college: Summer Experiences for Students and Teachers (1)

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Michele Miller Campbell University

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In 2017, Dr. Michele Miller joined Campbell University as a Professor and Associate Dean in their new School of Engineering. Prior to that, she was a professor of mechanical engineering at Michigan Technological University where she did research on precision grinding, micro sensors, and engineering education. She received a PhD from North Carolina State University in mechanical engineering.

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Nina Mahmoudian Michigan Technological University

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Dr. Nina Mahmoudian is an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Department at Michigan Technological University since 2011. She is the founding director of the Nonlinear and Autonomous Systems Laboratory (NASLab). Her research interests include robotics, dynamics and control of autonomous systems, and energy autonomy. She is a recipient of 2015 National Science Foundation CAREER award and 2015 Office of Naval Research YIP award.

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Saeedeh Ziaeefard Michigan Technological University Orcid 16x16

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Saeedeh Ziaeefard is a PhD student and research assistant with Nonlinear and Autonomous Systems Laboratory (NASLab) in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics at Michigan Technological University. Her research interests include engineering education, control and navigation of autonomous underwater vehicles.

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Mo Rastgaar Michigan Tech

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Mo Rastgaar received the Ph.D. degree in mechanical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, USA, in 2008.
He is currently an Associate Professor in mechanical engineering and the Director of the Human-Interactive Robotics Lab. His present research focuses on assistive robots by characterizing the agility in the human gait. Dr. Rastgaar is a recipient of 2014 NSF CAREER Award.

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Micah R. Koller Michigan Technological University

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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 developed two educational robotic platforms that cost less than $500: 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 2015, GUPPIE and Neu-pulator were a component of one week-long camp for high schoolers and the sole focus for another week-long camp for middle schoolers. In 2016, the robotics platforms were a component of two week-long camps for high schoolers and the sole focus for two more week-long camps for middle schoolers. In total, 126 students (56 girls and 70 boys) have participated. We are interested in the factors that motivate student participation in robotics activities. Specifically, our research questions include:

• What factors affect student interest in robotics? • Do the factors differ by gender and grade level?

During each camp week, we collect a variety of data: pre and post-surveys; daily activity assessments; group interviews at the end of the week; and observations. We learned that the top motivation factor for engaging in robotics is enjoyment. As students move from middle to high school, usefulness to career also becomes important. Mastery, in the form of learning a lot or being good at it, was also an important factor for many students.

Miller, M., & Mahmoudian, N., & Ziaeefard, S., & Rastgaar, M., & Koller, M. R. (2017, June), Motivation Factors for Middle and High School Students in Summer Robotics Program (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28690

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