By Ms. Jennifer Carroll (RDECOM)November 29, 2010
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's (ECBC) educational outreach program recently delivered five Lego® Mindstorm® Robotic Kits and six resource kits to 27 high school physics students in Cecil County's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy.
ECBC engineer Matthew Brown helped Elkton High School 10th-grade teacher and students examine the robotic materials, a donation funded by the National Defense Education Program (NDEP), while applying STEM concepts in the form of interactive classroom activities.
ECBC has a formal partnership with Cecil County Public Schools (CCPS).
"Our partnership enables us to provide educators and students with effective educational outreach materials, such as the robotic kits that supplement STEM education in the classroom," said Mary Doak, Community and Educational Outreach Program manager "Our goal is to entice students to pursue STEM career pathways and to make their traditional science and math classes more compelling with hands-on experiences."
CCPS Science Instructional Coordinator Frank Cardo embraced the implementation of the robotic kits and praised their value to the curriculum of Cecil County's STEM Academy. Accepting the robotics materials, he expressed his gratitude and excitement about the addition of real-life components to the traditional science and math classes of the county's STEM Academy.
"I am very thankful that ECBC extended this opportunity to our teachers and students, as we are always striving to make our STEM program more meaningful for our students. Robotics is a piece we have been missing, and thanks to ECBC, we now have a robotics component in our physics classes and in our new research and design course," he said.
This past summer, Brown and Alison Hapka, lead science teacher at Elkton High School, attended a one-week teacher professional development training from NDEP on how to use robots to teach a math-based inquiry and design course. While introducing Hapka's physics class to the robotic kits, they were able to apply the knowledge and skills acquired in this training.
Offering his real-world expertise in engineering, Brown assisted Hapka to engage students in investigating the new robot models. Through testing and analysis, they determined the strengths and weaknesses of each model and quantitatively explained the varying speeds they could achieve based on the nature of its wheels and gears.
"This class is actually preparing us for potential careers we may pursue in the future. The applications of science and math are encouraging for my future," said Elkton High School 10th-grade student Sarah Gold.
The hands-on classroom activity included recording processes, data and calculations to discover the mathematical relationship between the physical variables. First, they made the connection between diameter of wheel and how far the robot travels. Second, they investigated the relationship between linear distance, number of revolutions and gear ratio.
"The class differs from previous classes, in which we were not interactive. The interactions with the engineer and robot kits make this class productive and enjoyable," said 10th-grader Briana VanReenen.
According to science teacher Hapka, this educational outreach support had an impact on the learning in her classroom and created a productive environment.
"Allowing the locally-based Army engineer to come co-teach the class with me helped us practice the skills we learned over the summer, as the students worked through an inquiry-based lesson on robotics," she said.
More than Elkton's physics students will benefit from the robotic materials. Teachers from Perryville High Schools will also use the robotics kits to enhance math, programming, physics and Advanced Placement science classes.
"The robotics equipment that the Army has loaned us will not only impact my own classes, but many others at the school as well. Our top students can benefit by increasing the challenge of their curriculum, and our struggling students can be motivated to engage in the learning progress," Hapka said.
Wesley Zimmerman, principal of Elkton High School, welcomes the opportunity incorporate real-life experiences in the STEM classes at his school.
"Thank you for your partnership and assistance in working with our STEM students at Elkton High School. The robotic material will be a great addition to our STEM program, as they allow students to apply concepts learned in math and science classes," he said.
"Matt Brown did a nice job today with his interaction of students and assisting the teacher in presenting the new robotic material," he added. "Thanks again, and I hope we can continue to work together and look for other ways to connect our STEM students to the Army's engineering program."