Analysis of Middle and High School Student Learning of Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Concepts Through a Lego Underwater Robotics Design Challenge


The Build IT project is a university-school collaboration to increase precollege student interest and achievement in engineering, science, mathematics, and information technology through a novel underwater robotics project that utilizes LEGO Mindstorms kits, the NXT programmable brick, and related equipment. The project is being implemented in 36 socio-economically and academically diverse schools for students in Grades 7-12. Through a series of increasingly complex challenges, Build IT exposes students to science, mathematics, and engineering concepts such as buoyancy, Newton’s Laws, momentum, density, gear ratios, torque, forces, energy, volume, mass-weight distribution and simple machines. During the first year of  classroom implementation, teams of students in a variety of classroom settings used LEGO components, wire-guided switches, motors and other equipment to design, construct, and control robots to maneuver in a 3-4 foot deep pool. This paper will explore the impact of the project on the students, specifically, changes in understanding of the key science concepts embedded in the curriculum and changes in knowledge about, and attitudes toward, engineering. It will also explore gender differences in attitudes toward the engineering aspects of the curriculum and in the pedagogical strategies embedded in the curriculum, including hands-on learning and group work. 

BUILD IT Scale Up presentation at the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, TX, June 2009.


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Conference proceeding
Elisabeth McGrath
Susan Lowes
Peiyi Lin
Jason Sayres
American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
Informal Learning and Afterschool
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Additional Disciplines
Engineering - robotics