Robotics engineering promises to extend humanity's physical and intellectual reach to remote areas of our universe, enabling exploration and excavation of far-removed places. Such capabilities are the focus of a number of current educational projects in robotics.
Consider the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million privately funded competition among design teams hoping to send a robot to the moon, where the winning bot will travel 500 meters and transmit video, images and data back to Earth. To get the next generation interested in both robotics and space, the X Prize Foundation has teamed with Google, Lego Systems and National Instruments on MoonBots, a competition inspired by the Google Lunar X Prize. Under the program, small teams of children and adults will use Lego Mindstorms kits to design, program and construct robots that perform simulated lunar missions similar to those targeted by the Google Lunar X competition.
|Researchers at Nanyang Polytechnic, Schmid Engineering and Analog Devices developed a spider robot that can traverse uneven terrain and squeeze into tight spaces for search and rescue missions.|
"We want students and their parents to understand that they can tackle difficult engineering problems and generate important new ideas regardless of their age or their background--and that they can have fun doing so," said William Pomerantz, senior director for space prizes at the X Prize Foundation.
Registered teams (http://www. moonbots.org) are asked to submit designs illustrating how they will build, program and operate their robots using Lego Mindstorms robotic kits. The kits combine the physical Lego bricks with hardware and programming software. Lego claims that amateur robotics engineers can build and program their first working Lego robot in 30 minutes.
In another educational robotics application, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering challenges its students to tackle open-ended engineering problems. The Olin curriculum culminates in the Senior Capstone Program in Engineering (Scope), in which students engage in a significant engineering project under realistic constraints for a corporate partner that supplies a bona fide engineering problem to the program.