A hands-on middle-school robotics software program at MIT
March 28, 2020
Robotics competitions at the high school level attract a large number of students across the world. However, there is little emphasis on leveraging robotics to get middle school students excited about pursuing STEM education. In this paper, we describe a new program that targets middle school students in a local, four-week setting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It aims to excite students by teaching the very basics of computer vision and robotics. The students program mini car-like robots, equipped with state-of-the-art computers, to navigate autonomously in a mock race track. We describe the hardware and software infrastructure that enables the program, the details of our curriculum, and the results of a short assessment. In addition, we describe four short programs, as well as a session where we teach high school teachers how to teach similar courses at their schools to their own students. The self-assessment indicates that the students feel more confident in programming and robotics after leaving the program, which we hope will enable them to pursue STEM education and robotics initiatives at school.