Some schools are using robotics to teach important and fun STEM concepts. It’s like something out of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein. There’s nothing like getting in the Halloween spirit than by bringing a creature to life using STEM concepts! 

Fun STEM ConceptsOne great example is Sam Houston State University. Students here have been challenged to think like Dr. Frankenstein by using science, technology, engineering and mathematics to bring a monster of their own to life as part of the annual SET BEST Robotics Competition.

 Those students will put the results of their hard work to the test as they compete against the projects of other schools at SHSU’s Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum on Game Day, scheduled for Oct. 26. Sponsored by the SHSU computer science department, the SHSU College of Sciences, and the former Brazos BEST hub in Bryan, the event will kick off at 9:30 a.m. and will include oral presentations, an exhibit and the robotics game competition.

 The Boosting Engineering Science and Technology Robotics Competition challenges middle- and high-school students to take everyday components and create a “robot” that then competes in a timed obstacle course.

 Students in seventh through 12th grades build their robots over the course of six weeks using kits they receive from SHSU filled with plywood, PVC pipes and fittings, plastic and metal sheets, electrical cables, duct tape, screws, nuts, Velcro, rubber bands, and, this year, a rollerblade wheel and an axle.

Following this year’s “Gatekeeper 2013” theme, students have been asked to explore a central processing unit-style obstacle course, using their robots to build a “CPU” in three stages—first, they will maneuver their robot to collect and insert “transistors” (wooden dowels) into the model computer; then, they use the robot to fabricate an “integrated circuit” (clothes hangers); and finally, the CPU will be completed by adding a “core processor” and “memory module,” according to Li-Jen Shannon, assistant professor of computer science and SET BEST hub director.  

Through all of this, students learn basic STEM components as they come to understand the engineering associated with creating their robot to perform these tasks, as well as the basics of the inside of a computer in “building” their CPU, Shannon said.

“The CPU is the part of a computer that performs the arithmetic, logic and control functions. The internal components are composed of different combinations of logic gates (hence the “gatekeeper” theme) to perform various logical functions for the CPU,” she said. “The participants must understand how the logic design works in the computing technology.”

Teams are scored on each stage of the course, as well as on their engineering notebook; sportsmanship; a marketing and oral presentation; and an exhibition related to the annual theme. The best overall score wins the competition. What a great way to teach fun STEM concepts.

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