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Using an AR Drone Lab in a Secondary Education Classroom to Promote Quantitative Research

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Use of Technology and Tools for K-12 Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Henry M. Clever New York University

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Henry M. Clever is a second year Ph.D. student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in Mechanical Engineering at New York University. After receiving his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Kansas, Henry began research with Prof. Joo H. Kim in energetics of humans and machines, and design and control of wearable robots. In the 2014-2015 school year, Henry lead the robotics club and co-taught in a quantitative research class at a high school in Brooklyn, New York as an AMPS/CBSI fellow at NYU through the NSF G-K12 program. Henry is primarily interested in using robotics to help people with disabilities and promoting STEM education in underrepresented demographics.

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Allison Graham Brown New York University

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Allison Graham Brown, MAEd, is the Director of Professional Development for The ASD Nest Support Project at New York University. After receiving her B.A. in Psychology at The Ohio State University she received a M.A. and dual certification in Childhood and Special Education from NYU. Ms. Brown has been an adjunct professor at Hunter College and New York University, teaching courses on instructional methods for students with disabilities, and behavior theory and interventions. Currently Ms. Brown provides on-site consultation in New York City Public Schools to help teachers implement strategies to capitalize on strengths and address social and academic difficulties of students on the autism spectrum. Ms. Brown works with administration to embed the philosophies and practices of the ASD Nest program school-wide. Additionally, Ms. Brown develops and delivers professional development and trainings for teachers and staff on best practices for students on the spectrum. Her primary focus is on utilizing the neurodiversity paradigm in schools to support students on the spectrum to reach their full and unique potential.

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Vikram Kapila New York University Orcid 16x16

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Vikram Kapila is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at NYU Tandon School of Engineering (NYU Tandon), where he directs a Mechatronics and Control Laboratory, a Research Experience for Teachers Site in Mechatronics and Entrepreneurship, a GK-12 Fellows project, and a DR K-12 research project, all funded by NSF. He has held visiting positions with the Air Force Research Laboratories in Dayton, OH. His research interests include K-12 STEM education, mechatronics, robotics, and control system technology. Under Research Experience for Teachers Site and GK-12 Fellows programs, funded by NSF, and the Central Brooklyn STEM Initiative (CBSI), funded by six philanthropic foundations, he has conducted significant K-12 education, training, mentoring, and outreach activities to integrate engineering concepts in science classrooms and labs of dozens of New York City public schools. He received NYU Tandon’s 2002, 2008, 2011, and 2014 Jacobs Excellence in Education Award, 2002 Jacobs Innovation Grant, 2003 Distinguished Teacher Award, and 2012 Inaugural Distinguished Award for Excellence in the category Inspiration through Leadership. Moreover, he is a recipient of 2014-2015 University Distinguished Teaching Award at NYU. In 2004, he was selected for a three-year term as a Senior Faculty Fellow of NYU Tandon’s Othmer Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies. His scholarly activities have included 3 edited books, 8 chapters in edited books, 1 book review, 55 journal articles, and 126 conference papers. He has mentored 1 B.S., 17 M.S., and 4 Ph.D. thesis students; 31 undergraduate research students and 11 undergraduate senior design project teams; over 300 K-12 teachers and 100 high school student researchers; and 18 undergraduate GK-12 Fellows and 60 graduate GK-12 Fellows. Moreover, he directs K-12 education, training, mentoring, and outreach programs that enrich the STEM education of over 1,500 students annually.

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In recent years, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) educators have sought innovative ways to integrate technology in teaching and learning to engage and build the interest of secondary school students in STEM disciplines as well as to capture their imagination about STEM careers. Recent technological advancements have allowed design, development, and commercialization of low-cost mini unmanned aerial vehicles (MUAV) that offer a novel and ideal platform to support STEM disciplines in high school classrooms. This paper focuses on one illustrative example wherein four sections of a 9th grade quantitative research course, consisting of 25 to 30 students each, were engaged by a graduate student through an AR Parrot 2.0 MUAV-based lab activity, which considered the research question “How fast does the AR Drone fly?” Within the framework of a hands-on lab, the students designed a MUAV-based controlled experiment, collected their own data, used the collected data to formulate an understanding of the physics, and applied relevant mathematics to reach conclusions. The graduate student integrated and examined an array of motivational factors in the lesson, including the embodiment of quantitative research principles, critical thinking about real-world scenarios, ownership of experimental procedure and outcome, and gamification wherein students used a video game controller to pilot the MUAV in the experiment. Finally, the MUAV lab targeted the special learning needs of students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who composed of 12% of the student body in the school.

This paper will provide a series of learning elements unique to the structure of the lesson, e.g., a situated cognition model to frame the experimental activity, a project-based learning (PBL) structure in a lab environment, and a social constructivist approach to bridge the gap between the scientist and the classroom. Specifically, the situated cognition model was incorporated by the graduate researcher posing as a member of a university lab that conducts Department of Defense (DOD) sponsored research. Students were informed that the university lab was preparing to bid on a high-dollar classified MUAV project with a DOD agency and the lab needed students’ support in performing preliminary research to generate experimentally validated data for the proposal. This approach produced a contagious excitement and ownership because many students in sections following earlier introductory sections knew what to expect; their peers from earlier sections had shared the idea outside of class. Furthermore, hands-on interactions embedded in PBL allowed students to “do something” to “learn about something,” instead of the usual classroom teaching with singular focus on “learn about something.” At the start of the MUAV lesson, students drew names out of a hat to choose between four possible roles: piloting the MUAV, timing MUAV flight to measure its velocity over a set number of parking spaces located behind the school, recording data, and making experimental observations to explore sources of error. In a class meeting prior to the day of the experiment, students convened in their respective groups to discuss how they might perform their roles to achieve the best possible results. During post-experiment reporting, students provided answers to the question “How fast does the AR Drone fly?,” culminating in a research presentation and a formal lab report to model activities used in post-secondary level labs. Within the experiment, a social constructivist approach allowed students to connect past and present experiences in their lives with the phenomena they observed in the scientific experiment. Research questions were posed in a self-deprecating way with a supposed hesitation of particular answers to provide a fuller understanding of the physical world as the students confirmed or rejected their own prior assumptions.

Following the lesson, a post assessment was conducted wherein students were given a survey to indicate other types of experiments they might want to conduct using a MUAV. While some of the ideas conveyed in the survey are not deemed feasible, others provide an insight into how future teachers might design a MUAV lesson plan differently to better capture the interests of the students. The full paper will provide details of the lesson motivation, activities, and assessment.

Clever, H. M., & Brown, A. G., & Kapila, V. (2016, June), Using an AR Drone Lab in a Secondary Education Classroom to Promote Quantitative Research Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27129

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