Engineering Design Lab: Robotics and Programming with Tufts CEEO

Sep 16, 2021

For its third year in a row, the Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) collaborated with Tufts’ University College to bring the Engineering Design Lab (EDL) pre-college course to high school students across the globe. The goal of the program is to expose students to the fundamentals of robotics and programming, culminating in a design project and supplemented with daily speakers from various departments in Tufts’ School of Engineering.

Research Assistant Professor Dr. Jennifer Cross of Tufts CEEO instructed the course virtually over 2 two-week sessions, reaching 82 students of all levels of programming experience. Each student received a build-your-own robot kit, which included Raspberry Pi 3B+ and GoPiGo3 boards, sensors, mounts, and items for the robots to interact with such as brightly colored balls.

After constructing their robots, students explored the basics of computing with Python through interactive notebooks, which allowed them to control the robots for the rest of the course. They then experimented with the GoPiGo board hardware, movement of the robot with the main motors, and various sensors and tools such as a button, servo motors, a speaker, and a camera. Each lesson included a range of activities accommodating the variety of skill levels of the students in the course.

The students were also exposed to higher level engineering concepts, such as image processing, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT). In the last few days of the course, students developed final projects independently, applying and combining the skills they’d learned in the course using everyday objects and materials from their kits. This summer resulted in a wide range of projects, including self-driving cars, a mini rover (seen above), card and candy sorters, a page turner, and even a full-sized fencing partner! Both sessions concluded in a virtual session where students presented their projects to family, friends, and guests from the Tufts community.

One of the final projects was a mini rover, which mimics some functionalities, including automated movement and particle detection and collection, of planetary exploration devices like the Mars Exploration Rovers.

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