A Robotics Summer Camp for High School Students: Pipelines Activities Promoting Careers in Engineering Fields
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In this paper we discuss the lived-experiences and the career interests of 27 high school students who participated in a two-week Robotics summer camp in 2012. The summer camp was designed by a team of engineering faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. It provided the high school students with the opportunity to play and work with the materials to design a robot, build it, test it, and re-design it. A secondary purpose of the camp was to help students determine their career choice in the engineering fields. The participating 27 students were selected according to (a) their content questionnaire scores administered to 145 students in 34 different locations (b) personal interest essays, and (c) phone interviews. At the camp, the students took (a) a computer programming course, (b) a basic electronics course, and (c) proteus, pic, and microC training sessions. The students in pairs designed, built, tested, and modified their robots through practical implementations. They were given a variety of design challenges in each practical implementation. In the camp, invited researchers presented about their research and interest in Robotics and showed interdisciplinary perspectives of Robotics activities in the field (e.g., cardiovascular surgery). Also the students attended other extracurricular activities (e.g., a field trip to Ford Company). Study data were collected through interviews, field notes, and observations. The analysis of the qualitative data indicated that the camp increased the students' interest in engineering and helped them determine specific engineering fields that they wish to study in their academic career. Our observations revealed that the participating students engaged in activities with a community of engineers and gained first hand and original engineering design experience. We organized the study findings along with three dimensions: (a) Robotics summer camp as alternative to traditional learning environment in schools, (b) robotics activities as a means to nurture student interest in engineering fields and (c) robotics summer camp as venue for the students to determine specific engineering fields. Our study findings suggest offering outreach programs in practical engineering work to high school students. American Society for Engineering Education, 2013.