We have developed an intensive, three-week summer robotics program for high school students. The program requires special teaching methods since it is offered to rising 10th through 12th grade students with diverse backgrounds, and a low student/teacher ratio to ensure all students grasp the material. We use a project-based learning approach, assigning the students a series of specially tailored labs and projects designed to engage and challenge while preparing them for the main element of the program, the design of a semi-autonomous robotic vehicle whose mission emulates that of NASA’s Martian rovers. The project culminates with testing of their vehicles on an obstacle course. A series of targeted design reviews are held as the project unfolds to keep all designs on schedule. We leverage the spirit of competition to heighten the enthusiasm of the students and sustain their interest through the long-hours required to design and build a successful robot. The students get hands-on experience with mechanism design, electronics, computer-aided-design and manufacturing, and microprocessor programming, and are engaged in discussions on applications of robotics in both academia and industry to provide a “grounding” of the material.

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