Co-robotics hands-on activities: A gateway to engineering design and STEM learning

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© 2017 Elsevier B.V. This paper presents the effect of meaningful learning contexts and hands-on activities, facilitated using two robots that work with people (co-robots), in broadening and sustaining pre-college student engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The two co-robots are: (1) a Glider for Underwater Problem-solving and Promotion of Interest in Engineering or GUPPIE and (2) a Neurally controlled manipulator called Neu-pulator. The co-robots are easy and inexpensive to manufacture, with readily available lightweight and durable components. They are also modular to accommodate a variety of learning activities that help young students to learn crosscutting concepts and engineering practice. The early assessment results show that students’ interests in activities related to robotics depend on their perception of the difficulty and their confidence level. The key is to start early when the students are young. The challenge is to break the barriers and define tasks as fun activities with a learn and play approach that can be rewarding. In this work, using a meaningful context – as in co-robots that help humans – in a hands-on project-based program that integrates different aspect of design, science, and technology is found effective in increasing students’ enthusiasm and participation. The co-robots and the hands-on activities can be easily adopted in classrooms by teachers with no engineering background who seek innovative ways to connect interdisciplinary core ideas and standards to the concepts they need to teach.

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Robotics and Autonomous Systems