To Encourage and Excite the Next Generation of Engineers through Human-Robot Interaction Projects for Space Exploration
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The robotics field represents the integration of multiple facets of engineering and science – from mechanical construction to intelligence programming to science data analysis. It is an ideal opportunity to showcase the relationship math and science have on tangible real-world applications. Unfortunately, the multi-disciplinary nature of robotics creates difficulty in using robotics as a pedagogical tool for the diverse learning styles present in different disciplines. The infusion of low-cost robotic platforms has alleviated some of these difficulties, but without an experienced and knowledgeable robotics instructor, the full benefit of this infrastructure cannot always be exploited. Yet, the field of robotics provides an ideal educational platform to encourage and excite undergraduate students. To capitalize on these benefits, we have developed human-robot interaction modules that combine human-robot interaction technology and space exploration problem sets into an intense design experience, in which emphasis is placed on the non-traditional skills needed for addressing challenging technical problems of the 21st century. In this paper, we discuss our intense “boot-camp” learning process that uses these modules for training diverse populations of undergraduate students. The underlying model is that by providing undergraduate students the ability to understand the linkage between theory and real-world applications, it increases their motivation to remain in a STEM-related major. Discussion on the approach is presented in this paper and validated through implementation with a pilot student population to provide supportive evidence of the observed benefits.