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Robotics-based Engineering Approaches in the G4-12 Curriculum

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Electrical and Computer Division Technical Session 9

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Daniel Dopp University of Missouri

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Daniel Dopp received his B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA in 2020. He is currently pursuing a PhD with the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO. His research has focused on computational modeling of the nervous system and education in neuroscience.

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David Bergin University of Missouri

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David A. Bergin is Professor of Educational Psychology in the Department of Educational, School, & Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri. His research focus is on motivation for learning in school and outside of school, including for students from underrepresented groups. Bergin’s co-authored textbook Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom is in a third edition and is targeted for teachers-in-training. He is a past president of Division 15 Educational Psychology of the American Psychological Association. Bergin has studied topics such as motivation for low-stakes tests, classroom engagement, a college access program for students of color, middle-school students learning about engineering design, and a summer research experience for teachers in neural engineering.

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Satish S. Nair University of Missouri, Columbia

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Satish S. Nair a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and directs the Neural Engineering Laboratory at University of Missouri-Columbia. His research focus is presently in the area of computational neural engineering from a systems and control perspective. He is author of 170 refereed articles (100+ journals, books and book-chapters, 70+ conference), and 88 posters and abstracts. He is also active in educational training related to neural engineering (from a systems/control perspective) for audiences ranging from K-12 students to faculty to K-12 levels.

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Engineering skills to understand and use model-based approaches, to interpret data and critically analyze situations, and develop and refine models to solve problems, are increasingly part of the set of STEM-skills that are sought of students in the modern workplace. This also aligns well with the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS) the emphasizes linkages between science and engineering. Such ‘hands-on’ experiential activities develop engineering, science, mathematics, coding, and innovation skills leading to the ability to think creatively and solve problems. A promising approach to accomplish such a linkage between science and engineering is the use of Lego robotics with sensors, coding, and communication technologies such as blue-tooth, in design challenges. We have been promoting this approach in G4-8 schools locally and state-wide for over a decade. The year-long program include 1.5 hour weekly after-school activity that includes that starts with a math-drill (5-10 minutes; scores recorded), and then has a series of graded learning activities that start with basics of sensors, coding, and robot construction, to simple Lego robot design challenges, and then culminates in the annual Robotics Design Challenge that has been conducted at our University since 2006. The program also uses a comparative theme of human (brain/body) and artificial (Lego) robotics enhances motivation for learning via personal and real-world linkages. In the process, students also recognize the parallels between (i) how our brain, integrating sensor information, controls human body functions via muscles, and (ii) how a computer, with different sensors and motors and with software to integrate sensor information enables control of the robot. Unbeknownst to students, such a linkage permits seamless introduction of important electrical and computer science concepts of technology, programming, math, system integration and design concepts and fosters motivation for STEM learning in a team-based social setting. We report results from our Lego-robotics program administered to 4th and 5th grade students over a period of two years in one of the school districts in Missouri. Expanding on the human-theme in our program, we are presently piloting new neural engineering modules (developed around off-the-shelf kits from to complement the robotics modules, and to strengthen the connections between the human brain and computers. Such connections are of interest to several teachers in our group since the new NGSS standards requires that educators integrate both engineering and neuroscience concepts into the K-12 curriculum.

Dopp, D., & Bergin, D., & Nair, S. S. (2021, July), Robotics-based Engineering Approaches in the G4-12 Curriculum Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37690

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