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This paper describes the experiences of using an advanced, low-cost robot in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. It presents three innovations: It is a powerful, cheap, robust, and small advanced personal robot; it forms the foundation of a problem-based learning curriculum; and it enables a novel multi-robot curriculum while fostering collaborative team work on assignments. The robot design has many features specific to educators: It is advanced enough for academic research, has a broad feature set to support a wide range of curricula, and is inexpensive enough to be an effective outreach tool. The low cost allows each student to have their own robot for the semester, so they can work on activities outside the classroom. This robot was used in three different classes in which it was the foundation for an innovative problem-based learning curriculum. In particular, the robot has specialized sensors and a communications system that supports novel multi-robot curricula, which encourage student interaction in new ways. The results are promising; the robot was a big success in graduate, undergraduate, and outreach activities. Finally, student assessments indicate a greater interest and understanding of engineering and other STEM majors, and class evaluations were consistently above average.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2013