Students Explore STEM in Underwater Robotics Camp
By: Tricia Berry
High school students across Texas designed, built and tested underwater robots during week long summer camps at schools, universities,museums and science centers. The camps used a problem-based learning curriculum being disseminated to four regions in the U.S. through a five-year, $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant.
The Texas Girls Collaborative Project (TxGCP) led by the Women in Engineering Program at The University of Texas at Austin was nationally selected last year to distribute the curriculum across Texas. Working in conjunction with the Austin-based STEM education program,Girl start, the two organizations have since trained representatives from17 schools, higher education institutions, museums and science centers on the WaterBotics curriculum and how to best teach it to students.Training was held in January at the National Instruments headquarters in Austin and – for the first time this summer – educators who went through the training taught the curriculum at summer camps throughout the state.
“Many robotics programs are competitive in nature, but this one is not about competition,” TxGCP Director Tricia Berry said about the program.“The focus of WaterBotics is to teach students how to creatively solve engineering challenges by working together. With this program,we’re creating and fostering a collaborative and team-oriented environment.”
The day camp is geared toward high school girls and other students typically underrepresented in STEM fields. The students use LEGO Mindstorms equipment to concept and create underwater robots capable of accomplishing a series of goals, like successfully navigating and grabbing objects in a 10-foot diameter pool. By responding to the challenges presented during camp, students leave with a better understanding of how engineers and scientists solve real-world problems, such as controlling an oil spill or developing advanced search and rescue technology.
The second round of educator training will be held January 9 – 13, 2012 at National Instruments in Austin.Applications and program details may be found on the Texas Girls Collaborative Project website. Trained educators and organizations have access to kits (LEGO Mindstorms, propellers, motors, etc.) for running a WaterBotics camp for 20 high school students.
WaterBotics is part of a NSF program to increase the pool, persistence and diversity of students pursing STEM study and careers. The program was initially tested in New Jersey and has been expanded to Dayton, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; and in Austin and throughout Texas. Learn more at http://waterbotics.org/, http://www.txgcp.org or contact Tricia Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org.