SBIR Phase II: Learning Design Synthesis with a Mechatronics Kit

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014

$739K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Modular Robotics Incorporated
3085 Bluff Street
Boulder, CO 80301
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Abstract

This SBIR Phase II project addresses a critical national need for more expansive and hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education by developing a mechatronic and robotics construction kit for teaching and learning engineering design synthesis. The research objective is to develop a teaching tool to interest young learners in engineering design, encourage and engage them in engineering practices specifically, creating appealing technology through exploring STEM topics that meets or exceeds national standards. The goal is to engage young people regardless of prior technical experience or STEM exposure in designing mechatronics and robotics systems, and through this to gain interest, experience, and confidence in engineering design synthesis. The work comprises developing construction kit hardware, a software environment for children to program their mechatronic constructions, and materials for using the kit to teach and learn STEM topics and engineering design. As the hardware advances, the project will develop software and learning resources that scaffold the construction kit with educational materials. It aims to support teachers and other educators incorporating the mechatronics kit into classroom and out-of-school learning, addressing national STEM standards while advancing research on how children learn complex design concepts and how educators can best support this progression. The broader/commercial impact of this SBIR Phase II project is in engendering in young learners innovation, design, and creative problem solving among the most important skills for tomorrow's workforce. These skills are addressed within STEM disciplines, however, too often the use of technology in education is limited to skill based computer operations, and engineering is neglected altogether. The teaching and learning tool and its ensemble of software and learning resources truly integrates every letter in the STEM acronym, while inviting students who have no background in robotics, engineering, design, technology, or computer programming to begin creating immediately. This leverages their creativity as motivation to continue learning in these fields. Precisely because kit removes the need for advanced fabrication skills or programming knowledge, this kit and its accompanying activities will promote broader inclusion of students who may have traditionally felt intimidated from more complex STEM engagement. As more students succeed with the kit and its ensemble of learning activities, this enhances a future workforce, an informed citizenry, as well as supporting teachers and educators to explore what all students can achieve when given motivating and confidence building STEM activities.