Applying Mechatronics to Promote Science / Central Brooklyn Robotics Initiative (AMPS / CBRI)


Rising expectations for the 21st century workforce, due to the 'flattening' of the world, demand bold new educational programs to produce the highly trained workforce needed to maintain the U.S. leadership in science and technology. On November 23, 2009, when President Obama introduced his new initiative, 'To Educate and Innovate', he said, "I believe that robotics can inspire young people to pursue science and engineering." For over a decade, our team has advocated engaging students' fascination with modern technologies (e.g., robotics, mechatronics, and sensing) as a hook to stimulate them to learn science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This approach provides students opportunities to

  1. Visualize and practice science and math concepts that they otherwise find difficult to comprehend and
  2. Learn tools and techniques that are used by STEM practitioners in real-world.

To gauge the effectiveness of using robotics to engage youngsters in STEM education, in AY2008, we piloted the CBRI effort. The CBRI pilot was created through grants from the Independence Community Foundation (ICF) and JP Morgan Chase Foundation. This pilot project was modeled after NSF's GK-12 Fellows Program and placed engineering students in K-12 schools to collaborate with teachers to train and mentor student teams for the FIRST Lego League (FLL) competition and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). At the December 2007 Brooklyn Borough FLL competition, five out of ten neophyte CBRI teams won various awards, including the top award, and qualified for the 2008 NYC FLL competition, where three CBRI teams won various awards.

In AY2009, the CBRI team received a 5 year NSF GK-12 Fellows grant for a synergistic project 'Applying Mechatronics to Promote Science (AMPS)', modeled on the CBRI project. Moreover, in AY2009, CBRI received generous support from ICF, Chase, Motorola, NY Space Grant, and AGEP. During year 2, AMPS/CBRI project was offered in 12 schools and six CBRI teams won various awards at the January 2009 Brooklyn Borough FLL competition, including the Champion award, and qualified for the NYC FLL competition. At the 2009 NYC FLL/FTC event, four CBRI teams won various awards. In AY2010 (year 3), the AMPS/CBRI project is again being offered in 12 schools. Moreover, since AY 2009, the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Fellows have used their expertise in mechatronics and robotics to enrich students' educational experience through robotics-based, grade-appropriate lessons.