Revitalize Secondary Students’ Interest in STEM via Lego Robot Development Activities

Document Type


Publication Date

April 2010

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Gang-Ryung Uh


Robots have begun to deeply enter our lives and homes in various ways and with growing autonomy. Youths interact with and benefit from various robotic technologies, but have no understanding of how these robots are actually built. The main objective of the proposal is to introduce robot development processes to secondary students in Boise. For this, we are researching the development of a Lego-based robotic curriculum, which is easy and inspiring. The short-term and long term benefits from the successful curriculum development will be the revitalization of interest in science, technology, engineering and math among secondary students in Boise.

For the robotic curriculum development, we have designed and implemented several Lego Mindstorm NXT robots. These robots are (1) fun to build, (2) easy to program to operate autonomously, and (3) rewarding to compete as group activities. In particular, to highlight the programming aspect of the robot development, we replaced the original firmware on an NXT brick with the LeJOS firmware. This will enable the secondary students to program robots in JAVA, which is a dominant modern high-level programming language used in academia and industry.

To partially demonstrate our past efforts to develop an easy and inspiring robot curriculum for the secondary students in Boise, we will present the following intelligent robots during the undergraduate research conference:

Line-following robot: The robot is programmed to follow a black line on a light surface. A light sensor on the robot determines if the robot is still on the line. If not, it performs a sequence of pivots and movements to search for a line until it finds it and continues. Modifications were made to LeJOS sample code in order to make the robot more responsive to corners and other anomalies in its path. We will demonstrate our improved algorithm by using robots programmed with the old and new code.

Rover: This robot has sensors that allow it to collect environmental data, not unlike the Mars rover. It is able to detect obstacles in its path and respond to them by maneuvering out of the way.

The above robot design and implementation experience will enable us to develop an easy and inspiring robot curriculum for secondary students in Boise. We are planning to use our robot design and implementation for the e-DAY and e-CAMP in the summer of 2010 to measure the effectiveness of Lego-based robot activities. To this end, this project will establish an inspiring robot curriculum to stimulate youths to major in STEM as they enter post-secondary education.

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