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NJIT researchers publish news of success with robots as learning tool

NJIT researchers, who have helped hundreds of science, mathematics, and technology teachers in New Jersey improve how students learn, have published a book chapter about their success using robotics as both a motivational and learning tool. "Robotics as an effective instructional tool and a motivation for learning" was published earlier this year in Innovations 2011, a publication of iNEER (International Network for Engineering Education and Research). The text was distributed to participants at the 2011 International Conference on Engineering Education in Northern Ireland this past summer.

"In recent years, considerable effort has been made to increase student interest and competency in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and using robotics as a teaching tool has been particularly successful," said lead author John Carpinelli, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering and director of NJIT's Center for Pre-College Programs (CPCP).

In 2007, Carpinelli and his NJIT colleagues at the Newark College of Engineering and CPCP, led by principal investigator Ronald Rockland, received a $1 million National Science Foundation Grant to develop and implement "Medibotics, the Merging of Medicine, Robotics and Information Technology." To read more and learn what New Jersey teachers have to say, see, "Training Teachers To Use Medibotics in the Classroom."

The successful culmination of this grant and the hard work of this fervent group of educators has been the publication of this book chapter. Co-authors were Howard Kimmel, professor, Otto H. York Department of Chemical, Biological, and Pharmaceutical Engineering, and associate vice president for academic affairs; Rockland, professor of engineering technology and biomedical engineering, and chair of the department of engineering technology; Levelle Burr-Alexander, associate director for K-20 Partnerships at CPCP; and Linda S. Hirsch, program evaluator for CPCP.

The book summarizes how to use robotics as a tool to enhance student understanding of and interest in STEM topics for curricula from sixth through twelfth grade with the ultimate goal of encouraging more students to pursue collegiate studies in these fields. The authors contend that many students do not pursue careers in technology and engineering in the US because they are not prepared academically in middle and high schools. Teachers in kindergarten through twelfth grade have not been trained to incorporate engineering and technology topics into their classroom lessons and, there is a shortage of high-quality curricular materials in these areas.

As with others who contributed to the book, the NJIT team believes that using the theme of robotics can overcome these obstacles. They show in this chapter how they have used robotics successfully for both teachers and students in classroom settings. Their program, Medibotics, focuses on developing projects that are medical in origin using LEGO Mindstorms Educational kits and NXT software.

Students and teachers learn to design, construct and write computer algorithms for LEGO robots that perform grade-appropriate prototypes of medical procedures performed by surgeons using robotic technologies.


Contact: Sheryl Weinstein
New Jersey Institute of Technology

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