Exciting Young Students In Grades K-8 About STEM Through An Afterschool Robotics Challenge

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Tanja Karp
Patricia Maloney

Keywords

LEGO Robotics Competition, K-8, Reaching Underserved Student Population, Afterschool Programs

Abstract

In this paper, we describe the successful implementation of an afterschool LEGO robotics program for elementary and middle school students that is annually offered by the Whitacre College of Engineering at Texas Tech University. Three events are held on campus: the kickoff, a trial run, and the competition, spread over a period of eight weeks. In between the events, participants design their LEGO robots at the school, mostly during afterschool clubs. Through our program, we broaden the participation in hands-on robotics tasks which apply STEM concepts to groups that otherwise might not have the opportunity. Success factors of our implementation are the flexibility of the implementation at the local level, the inclusion of engineering students as mentors and volunteers, and the low cost for organizers and participants. We provide evidence that we have reached a diverse student population in grades K-8 and positively changed their attitudes toward STEM, then we report the benefits that teachers see in regular participation in the event. Finally, we describe the benefit of involving engineering undergraduate students as mentors and volunteers. 

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