VIDEO:Robotic LEGO Submarines Teach Kids About Science and Engineering

Students from New York and New Jersey recently put their robotic LEGO designs to the test,  in the BUILD IT final design challenge held at  Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. “The underwater environment really throws them a curveball,” says Beth McGrath, director of Stevens’ Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education. “It’s a lot like a space environment.”‘

The goal of the BUILD IT program, administered by  Stevens’ science education center,  is to determine how to get more U.S. kids interested in science and engineering careers.  From 1980 to 2000, the number of U.S. science and engineering jobs increased by about four percent but the number of  science and engineering degrees awarded only increased by about about one percent, according to a 2008 report from the National Science Foundation. The program seeks to close this gap.



3-2-1 and go!


Racing robotic lego submarines might sound like fun to kids of any age. But this about more than just fun–it’s the final competition in a program designed to get school-age kids interested in science and engineering careers.


Last week more than 200 students from schools in New York and New Jersey competed in a final design challenge at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.


During the school year teams of five students designed and built their own underwater contraptions. Along the way students learned about design,engineering, computer programming and concepts like buoyancy and torque.


Now they race their inventions against the clock, trying to score points by moving whiffle balls into various plastic containers. It’s harder than it sounds.


Jishnu Desai and his teammates from Beck Middle School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey are competition veterans. They hope this year goes better than last.


We went with a strategy that we had last year but we kind of refined it and improved it.


They need to trap as many whiffle balls as they can under this plastic container. The clock starts and they trap 1..2..3…4…5…6 whiffle balls. Not bad, but less than the perfect score they’d hoped for.


The BUILD IT program is in its third and final year and has enrolled over 2600 students. The program was funded with a 1.2 million dollar grant from the national science foundation and
$50,000 from the Motorola company.


Testing data from the program shows that students improved their conceptual understanding and also showed an increased interest in science and engineering. Stevens Institute hopes to expand the program on a national level, starting with schools in Texas and Ohio.


But for now, the submersible lego robots have reached the end of the line.

One Comment, RSS

  1. Stephen Moulding September 2, 2009 @ 10:26 am

    There should be more initiatives like this, what a great way to get children interested in science / engineering – I wish we had the BUILT IT program when I was a kid!

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