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Toying With Technology: Mobile Robots And High School Interns

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.445.1 - 2.445.6



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Paper Authors

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Kara B. Wright

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Charles T. Wright

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Christine L. Collier

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Lawrence Genalo

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

Session 1692

Toying With Technology: Mobile Robots and High School Interns Lawrence J. Genalo, Charles T. Wright Jr., Kara B. Wright, Christine L. Collier Materials Science & Engineering/Electrical & Computer Engineering/ Mathematics Undergraduate/Civil Engineering Undergraduate Iowa State University


Students in today’s world grow up surrounded by electronic and electromechanical gadgetry and become adept at using such gadgetry at an early age without necessarily understanding the underlying science and technology. Garage door openers, TV remote controllers, microwave ovens, remote-control toys, and cellular phones are but a few such items in wide use today. As complex as these gadgets seem on the surface, much of the scientific and technological mystery behind their functionality can be explained in simple terms well within the grasp of the high school, or even middle school students. The primary purpose of this project is the development of science and technology instructional units aimed at a variety of students with the goal of giving these students an understanding of and appreciation for the basic scientific principles underlying the technological innovations that surround them. Students are introduced to science and technology in a gentle, non-threatening manner by developing a collection of hands-on laboratory experiences based upon simple systems constructed out of LEGOs and controlled by small microprocessors. These laboratory experiences are designed to lead students, literally by their hands-on experimentation, through the use of technology in support of many everyday activities.

Laboratory experiences, inspired by work done at MIT1,2, typically involve the design and construction (out of LEGOs) of simple models of familiar real-world systems, including an elevator and its controller, a garage door and its opener, a computer-controlled car, and a home security system. The supporting instructional material includes a laboratory manual and laboratory kits appropriate to the teaching of each unit.

Summer Internship Program for Women in Science and Engineering

The initial development and testing of laboratory experiences occurred during the summer of 1996 and involved high school students who were participating in a summer internship program directed at undergraduate and high school women in science and engineering fields. This program is administered each year by Iowa State University’s Program for Women in Science and Engineering (PWSE). In the summer of 1996, eight high school women in this program designed and built mobile robots to perform certain prescribed engineering functions. They simulated these devices by constructing autonomous robots out of LEGOs (hence the title, “Toying with Technology”). A world-wide-web site was developed which highlights these efforts. It can be viewed at These

Wright, K. B., & Wright, C. T., & Collier, C. L., & Genalo, L. (1997, June), Toying With Technology: Mobile Robots And High School Interns Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6840

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