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Underwater Lego Robotics: Testing, Evaluation & Redesign

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1516.1 - 12.1516.13



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Paper Authors


Adam Carberry Tufts University

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Adam Carberry is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Engineering Education at Tufts University. He received his B.S. in Material Science Engineering from Alfred University as well as his M.S. in Chemistry from Tufts. He is also a research assistant at the Tufts University Center for Engineering Educational Outreach.

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Morgan Hynes Tufts University

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Morgan Hynes is a doctoral student at Tufts University pursuing a degree in Math, Science, Technology, and Engineering education. He worked as a mechanical engineer in design and manufacturing for three years after graduating from Tufts University in 2001 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Morgan decided to change career paths and pursue education so he could make a difference in bringing engineering to K-12 education. He is also a research assistant at the Tufts University Center for Engineering Educational Outreach.

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

Underwater Lego Robotics: Testing, Evaluation & Redesign


In this study, underwater robotics using LEGO was used to analyze the testing, evaluation and redesign phases of the engineering design process. A group of all male participants of a summer camp at Tufts University, ranging in age from 10 - 13 were instructed to first build a boat; then modify their boat to become a submersible. The activity required the students to test their creations in a small pool away from the building area in order to reinforce the iterative nature of testing and redesign. Each student’s process was mapped out in time and with a flow diagram to vividly illustrate his individual process. Through this analysis, the study supplies an example of how underwater robotics can be used to integrate the engineering design process with related science topics in the classroom.


Underwater robotics is an up and coming field of study in engineering. This area is being studied not only for uses in scientific exploration[1], but also for uses in the classroom[2]. With a broad range of topics involved in underwater robotics, it makes related activities ideal for teaching multiple concepts, while supplying a great context for hands-on activities. This study focuses specifically on one contained experiment involving underwater robotics and students ranging in age from 10 - 13. In this experiment, students’ behaviors toward testing their designs, evaluating their results, communicating with others around them (students and counselors), and redesigning their underwater robots was analyzed to establish an initial hypothesis about the use of underwater robotics. This paper reports on the results of integrating science concepts and the engineering design process into an underwater robotics design challenge.

Theoretical Framework

The underwater robot design challenge is a hands-on, student-centered activity designed within the framework of constructivism. Piaget, a pioneer in developmental psychology, describes children as active builders of knowledge who, like scientists, discover and inquire as they learn new ideas[3]. This idea that students build knowledge is the backbone of constructivism. Methods of constructivism allow for very open inquiries among students and let them explore and learn from the environment around them and build the knowledge on their own. The underwater robot design challenge takes advantage of constructivist methods where the students are given an open-ended challenge to design and construct a LEGO-based underwater robot. This challenge also includes many of the ideas of constructionism[4] given that the students will construct actual artifacts as they engage in the learning process. The major tenets of constructionism are also incorporated as the students will be able to design and create a personally meaningful project, discover and learn powerful ideas, and then reflect upon their learning. A number of researchers have successfully implemented such a framework while using the LEGO toolset [5-7]. These sorts of methods will be used as the students design and build their LEGO submersible vehicles.

Carberry, A., & Hynes, M. (2007, June), Underwater Lego Robotics: Testing, Evaluation & Redesign Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2588

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