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PaperBots, An Inexpensive Means for Engineering Education

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-College Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.956.1 - 23.956.13



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Paper Authors


Brian Patrick O'Connell Tufts University

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Brian O'Connell received his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2006. He then worked for Kollmorgen Electro/Optical as a mechanical engineer developing periscopes and optrontic masts. In 2011, he returned to academia to pursue his Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. He aspires to become a professor of mechanical engineering after graduation to help advance the field and to produce better engineers in the future.

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PaperBots, An Inexpensive Means for Engineering Education     Due  to  economic  issues,  many  school  budgets  are  extremely  strained  by  just  the  basic  necessities  of  an  educational  institution.  These  budget  limitations  inhibit  access  to  educational  technologies  that  may  promote  engineering  principle  development  within  K-­‐12  classrooms.  PaperBots  is  a  product  that  focuses  on  overcoming  budget-­‐driven  limitations  by  utilizing  materials  like  paper,  office,  and  craft  supplies  already  accounted  for  in  a  school’s  budget.  Through  combination  of  those  available  materials  with  inexpensive  electronics  and  a  simple  control  unit,  students  can  be  challenged  with  interesting  and  entertaining  engineering  activities  in  any  classroom.  This  October,  a  small  focus  group  of  approximately  fifteen  fifth-­‐  and  sixth-­‐grade  students  will  be  brought  together  for  a  PaperBots  activity.  This  activity  will  be  observed  and  documented  to  make  a  qualitative  determination  of  the  effectiveness  of  this  product.  Conclusions  will  be  based  on  the  ease  with  which  the  students  use  the  product  to  examine  its  usability  in  a  classroom  time  period,  their  interest  and  enjoyment  during  the  session  to  examine  its  potential  effectiveness,  and  the  range  of  different  robots  created  as  a  mark  of  the  product’s  potential  promotion  of  creativity.  Positive  results  are  expected  based  on  product  design  considerations  that  took  into  account  student  capabilities,  heuristic  evaluations  of  the  designs  and  instructions,  and  less  formal  trials  with  earlier  versions  of  the  product.  These  trials  involved  a  cardstock-­‐based  cam  and  piston  activity  with  small  groups  of  peers,  a  paper  and  found  material  Rube  Goldberg  activity  with  undergraduate  engineering  students,  and  the  same  Rube  Goldberg  activity  and  origami  puppet  multi  articulated  puppet  joints  with  elementary  students  at  local  science  festivals  and  camps.  Using  these  results  I  hope  to  show  that  PaperBots  provides  a  means  to  allow  hands-­‐on  robotics  activities.  By  effectively  providing  activities  promoting  abstract,  design-­‐based  thinking  and  creativity  in  the  classroom—like  other  products  in  the  educational  technology  marketplace,  such  as  LEGO  Mindstorms—but  at  a  much  lower  cost,  PaperBots  can  be  utilized  by  many  budget  constricted  schools.    

O'Connell, B. P. (2013, June), PaperBots, An Inexpensive Means for Engineering Education Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22341

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