High School Students Explore Engineering with Underwater Robotics Camp, Aug. 1-5

Central Texas high school students will design, build and test underwater robots during a weeklong summer camp at The University of Texas at Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering that’s meant to demonstrate the opportunities and real-world applications within science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields (STEM).

The Aug. 1-5 camp, hosted by the school’s Women in Engineering Program (WEP) and Equal Opportunity in Engineering Program, will use a problem-based learning curriculum being disseminated to four regions in the U.S. through a five-year, $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant.

WEP's Texas Girls Collaborative Project was nationally selected last year to distribute the curriculum across Texas. Working in conjunction with the Austin-based STEM education program, Girlstart, the two organizations have since trained representatives from17 schools, higher education institutions, museums and science centers on the WaterBotics curriculum and how to best teach it to students. Training was held in January at the National Instruments headquarters in Austin and – for the first time this summer – educators who went through the training are teaching the curriculum at summer camps throughout the state.

"Many robotics programs are competitive in nature, but this one is not about competition," WEP Director Tricia Berry said about the program. "The focus of WaterBotics is to teach students how to creatively solve engineering challenges by working together. With this program, we're creating and fostering a collaborative and team-oriented environment."

The day camp at the Cockrell School is one of many being held in the state that's geared toward high school girls and other students typically underrepresented in STEM fields. Roughly 20 students were selected to attend the Austin camp based on their class rank, standardized test scores and extracurricular activities.

The students will use LEGO and Mindstorms equipment to concept and create underwater robots capable of accomplishing a series of goals, like successfully navigating and grabbing objects in a 10-foot diameter pool. By responding to the challenges presented during camp, students will leave with a better understanding of how engineers and scientists solve real-world problems, such as controlling an oil spill or developing advanced search and rescue technology.

For more information about the program, visit WaterBotics or Texas Girls Collaborative Project Web sites.

About WaterBotics

WaterBotics is part of a NSF program to increase the pool, persistence and diversity of students pursing STEM study and careers. The program was initially tested in New Jersey and has been expanded to Dayton, Ohio; Chicago, Ill.; and in Austin and throughout Texas.