Last month, with the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games still under way in China, more than 30 area middle school students showed off their technical skills by participating in a program of their own. The students had an opportunity to “learn that science and engineering can be fun,” as part of a two-week summer program developed by the Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education (CIPCE) at Rensselaer.
The students used LEGO MINDSTORMS robot technology to design, construct, and program robotic solutions to perform complex engineering challenges.
On Aug. 15, students learned to write code and test it by having their robots maneuver through Olympics-like activities that include swimming, gymnastics, and archery.
Approximately 16 Girl Scouts from the Capital Region, New York City, and Plattsburgh area, along with more than 15 students from local middle schools who are funded by Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Bender Family Foundation, attended the program.
“This is an opportunity to help students understand the common themes that connect math, science, engineering, and technology,” said Lester Rubenfeld, director of CIPCE. “Through the program’s hands-on, fun activities we are reaching out to students in our local community, and giving them the tools they need so that they will learn to be confident in applying these themes to other areas of learning.
“It is our hope that we can encourage them to be part of the solution to the critical national challenge to fill the science and engineering pipeline, by inspiring historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students to consider careers in science, engineering, and technology,” Rubenfeld added.
Launched 11 years ago, Rensselaer’s Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education works with area K-12 teachers and students, as well as local, statewide, and national organizations, to promote the use of robotics in the classroom. Since its inception, a series of professional development, academic, and afterschool programs have been created. The workshops provide an opportunity for teachers and students to see and experience cutting-edge technologies in robotics engineering, computer-aided design (CAD) software, robotic arm systems, and rapid prototyping technology, among other things.
For more information about CIPCE, go to http://www.cipce.rpi.edu/.
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