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Inspiring Students about STEM Careers and Robotics

When a senior staff scientist at Science Buddies met online with an elementary school robotics team in Texas, the students got a much bigger dose of STEM inspiration than they expected!

An assembled bristle bot

Science Buddies robotics expert talks with students about robotics and STEM careers. www.sciencebuddies.org

Inspiring Tomorrow's Engineers

As a small non-profit organization working on STEM education materials to help support more than 18 million students, teachers, and parents a year, Science Buddies' staff of scientists are always brainstorming, testing, and refining exciting new resources and procedures for K-12 STEM exploration. The team of scientists stays busy testing and developing project ideas, Lesson Plans, and science project resources, so they are not typically able to make special appearances or work one-on-one with schools and classrooms.

Earlier this year, however, a robotics team in El Paso, Texas contacted Science Buddies with questions about a dew trap project they were working on as part of their research on real-world issues in South Africa. Science Buddies Senior Staff Scientist, Ben Finio, agreed to answer a few questions from the group during a short video chat. Ben is an expert in robotics, not dew traps, but the meeting was arranged, and Ben connected with the small group of 5th grade students from Benito Martinez Elementary to find out more about their project.

Screenshot of a tweet regarding Dr. Ben Finio, a senior staff scientist at Science Buddies, talking with a class of students

A screenshot of a tweet from a teacher shows photos of students in a classroom having a video meeting with Dr. Ben Finio, a senior staff at Science Buddies. The tweet explains that team of robotics students "had a chance to interview Dr. Ben Finio" and "got to share and discuss our research on Fog Catchers for our #FLL Competition".

Above: The Sharkbots' teacher tweeted about her team's video chat with Science Buddies.

The students showed Ben a drawing of their dew trap design and talked briefly about their work on the project. Ben offered the team suggestions about design considerations and things they should think about in terms of how the dew trap would be used and the climate of the area they were targeting.

When the team found out that Ben is a robotics expert, they were even more excited to be talking with a real scientist. The Sharkbots First LEGO League team had lots of questions for Ben and knew an impressive amount about robotics and STEM careers. After demonstrating the light-tracking Bristlebot, a project he wrote for Science Buddies, Ben talked with the students about types of engineers and the intersection between robotics engineering and computer programming. "Robotics is not just about building things," Ben told them. "It is also about programming."

The students had numerous questions for Ben about getting a job in science and about getting into schools like Harvard (where Ben did his graduate work as part of the Harvard Microrobotics Lab).

"It was inspiring to see that the students were so interested in my career as a roboticist and had lots of very good questions about school and STEM career paths," says Ben.

Science Buddies hopes the team went on to successfully finish their dew trap project and that they continue to explore robotics in the future!

"It was inspiring to see that the students were so interested in my career as a roboticist and had lots of very good questions about school and STEM career paths."

Ben Finio, Science Buddies

Explore Robotics with Students

Thanks to scientists like Ben who are dedicated to bringing engineering and robotics experiences to students of all ages, Science Buddies has a range of robotics projects that can be used at all levels. For educators working in elementary schools, see the Junkbots, Vibrobots, Artbots, Bristlebots, Brushbots, and Flippy, the Dancing Robot projects. Complete Lesson Plans are also available for the following robotics explorations:

To encourage student exploration of robotics, see the following STEM career profiles:

(Google Classroom teachers can assign resources like STEM Career Profiles for student reading using the "Create Assignment" button.)

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