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Student-designed Robot Vehicles Could Be Key To Stimulate More STEM Interest, Texas A&M Profs Say

By: TAMU Press Release
By: TAMU Press Release

COLLEGE STATION, March 26, 2014— STEM – as in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – has become the buzzword of the decade for anyone involved in education, but two Texas A&M University professors are encouraging secondary school teachers to put more emphasis on the “T” and the “E” in their classrooms. They suggest that having students design robot vehicles might fit that need to a “t.”

The two Texas A&M faculty members, Jennifer Whitfield, instructional assistant professor of mathematics and director of aggieTEACH, and Joseph Morgan, professor, electronic systems engineering technology (ESET), have teamed up to lead a conference session on robotics/engineering applications for high school classrooms, titled “The Power of the Partnership.”

They will present their concept Friday (March 28), at the New Horizons in Texas STEM Education Conference in San Antonio. Their audience will include faculty from other Texas universities and community colleges, representatives from Texas high schools and STEM teacher preparation programs.

“Dr. Morgan and I are from two different colleges (the College of Science – Department of Mathematics and the College of Engineering – Electronics) but there is power in our partnership because we share a common goal,” says Whitfield.

“We both want to ensure that the next generation of students is proficient in the STEM fields in order to meet the needs of Texas and the nation. And we mean all of STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We need to prepare and inspire middle school and high school students before they get to college. For me, that means training our pre-service science and mathematics teachers to collaborate with engineers early on and to incorporate 21st century teaching methods into their classrooms.”

Morgan, director of the Mobile Integrated Solutions Laboratory ESET program, agrees. He and his colleagues have been implementing an array of innovative STEM outreach projects and camps, many focused on the Krisys Robotics platform developed by ESET students, in order to get high-achieving underrepresented high school students hooked on engineering at Texas A&M.

“Often when we think about STEM, the focus has been on science and math,” says Morgan. “By introducing design, fabrication and programming with Krisys Robots into a typical science or math classroom, we are putting the ‘T’ and the ‘E’ back into STEM. We want students and their teachers to get the full impact of STEM on every level. The Krisys Robot program is a paradigm for crossing discipline boundaries and motivating STEM activities.”

They emphasize that in the various STEM outreach programs conducted by Texas A&M, there is power in partnerships: partnerships between disciplines, partnerships between the university and the school districts they target, partnerships between government agencies and/or corporations and the university, partnerships between pre-service teachers and STEM outreach activities, and partnerships between college and high school students.

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